Coming Up Short: 35th Annual M&O Cost Study

Results from AS&U's 35th Annual M&O Cost Study

As the nation's school buildings age and deteriorate, spending on maintenance and operations (M&O) remains paltry, especially when compared with historical figures.

According to American School & University's 35th annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study, the median school district spends 7.58 percent of total district expenditures (TDE) on M&O. The amount is about even with what was allocated last year, and more than 2 percent lower than the 9.59 percent of budget spent 10 years ago— reflecting the rather low priority many school districts place on the condition of facilities where children learn.

Compiling the numbers

To arrive at data for the latest M&O Cost Study, a detailed questionnaire was mailed in October 2005 to chief business officials at the nation's public school districts asking them to document their institutions' M&O costs, including salary/payroll, outside contract labor, utilities, gas, electricity, trash collection/disposal, maintenance and grounds equipment and supplies, and other costs, as well as additional maintenance practices.

Data for the report is broken out on a national level and by district enrollment, with budgeted expenditures for M&O identified per student and per square foot for the 2005-06 school year. Categories used in the survey questionnaire:

  • Per student: Based on total district enrollment (average daily attendance as of October 2005).

  • Per square foot: Based on total gross area of all district buildings maintained, including corridors, offices and common space.

  • Total district expenditures (TDE): Amounts for the 2005-06 school year.

  • Total maintenance and operations (M&O) expenditures: Including salaries, benefits, outside contracts, utilities, gas, electricity, trash collection/disposal, equipment and supplies, etc., for custodial, maintenance and grounds.

  • Custodial: Those individuals responsible for building upkeep and cleaning.

  • Maintenance: Those individuals who perform skilled jobs, such as electrical, HVAC or plumbing repair.

  • Grounds: Those individuals responsible for landscape upkeep and maintenance.

  • Payroll: Including benefits.

  • Average salary: Annualized, excluding benefits.

  • Outside contract labor: Those hired for specialized jobs to maintain or repair building systems or equipment, such as HVAC maintenance or repair.

  • Other utilities: Including water, telephone, etc.

  • Other: Most often identified as insurance, clerical costs, equipment repair and rental, and travel.

As you compare data, keep in mind that all costs are affected greatly by numerous factors including age and overall building condition, climate, the labor market in your area, as well as other aspects over which school administrators have limited control. In addition, the figures provided are not intended to be “ideal” amounts for M&O allocations; they are only reflections of actual spending by institutions.

Noteworthy points

Among some of the findings of the 35th annual M&O Cost Study:

  • While school districts spend a median 7.58 percent of total budget on M&O, colleges allocate 11 percent.

  • The median size of responding institutions is 1,881 students (7,701 at districts with more than 3,500 students; 1,860 at districts with 1,000-3,499 students; and 545 at institutions with fewer than 1,000 students).

  • The national median 2005-06 total M&O expenditure for school districts is $1.8 million. For systems under 1,000 students, the median total M&O expenditure is $460,000; for districts with 1,000-3,499 students, the median total M&O expenditure is $1.7 million; and for systems with more than 3,500 students, the median total M&O expenditure is $6.5 million.

  • The median number of buildings maintained in a school district is seven (three in systems with less than 1,000 pupils; six in districts with 1,000-3,499 students; and 23 for systems with more than 3,500 pupils).

  • The median school district spends $492,163/yr. for utilities and $94,000/yr. for custodial/maintenance equipment and supplies. Gas and electricity account for more than 82 percent of the total utility spending for school districts.

  • The median per-student cost of gas increased more than 33 percent from last year.

  • The mean public school district has 39 full-time custodial, 15 full-time maintenance and six full-time grounds personnel.

  • The median amount of square feet maintained per custodian remained fairly constant at 25,173 from 25,444 square feet last year. Square feet maintained per maintenance worker, however, jumped to 100,720 from 87,931 square feet last year. Acres maintained per grounds worker dropped slightly to 40 from 41 last year.

  • Transportation-program costs increased across most categories, with the median school district spending 4.9 percent of its total budget (4.4 percent last year) and $439 per student ($374 per student last year) on transportation.

  • The percentage of school districts outsourcing M&O services dropped to 15 percent from 17 percent last year.

TABLE 1: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in median dollars per student)

  Nat'l Median <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Total Payroll $367.25 $377.38 $370.52 $359.85
Custodial** $262.51 $270.49 $265.30 $240.15
Maintenance** $78.18 $65.12 $74.84 $90.82
Grounds** $22.44 $23.07 $28.96 $15.47
Outside Contract Labor $26.01 $19.09 $26.67 $40.51
Total Utilities $233.05 $277.90 $221.29 $216.90
Gas** $73.17 $92.31 $80.95 $41.78
Electricity** $129.40 $145.21 $117.52 $136.82
Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $200.25 $221.05 $197.73 $177.89
Other Fuels $10.71 $20.47 $4.86 $7.48
Other Utilities $32.02 $41.08 $31.68 $28.75
Trash Collection/Disposal $7.50 $10.84 $6.52 $6.16
Total Equipment & Supplies $57.24 $75.00 $65.93 46.84
Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $46.30 $62.39 $46.37 $29.81
Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $7.35 $9.05 $12.50 $4.53
Other $33.52 $115.50 $29.04 $46.86
Total M&O* $717.07 $864.87 $713.45 $710.96
Total District Expenditures (TDE) $9,454 $9,548 $9,944 $8,910
M&O as % TDE 7.58% 9.01% 7.17% 7.98%
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).

**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

 

TABLE 2: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in median dollars per square foot)

  Nat'l Median <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Total Payroll $2.08 $1.71 $2.14 $2.37
Custodial** $1.47 $1.13 $1.47 $1.71
Maintenance** $0.43 $0.06 $0.40 $0.67
Grounds** $0.14 $0.17 $0.15 $0.12
Outside Contract Labor $0.17 $0.09 $0.16 $0.33
Total Utilities $1.31 $1.25 $1.16 $1.43
Gas** $0.39 $0.43 $0.45 $0.29
Electricity** $0.72 $0.58 $0.63 $0.85
Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $1.10 $1.06 $1.06 $1.20
Other Fuels $0.04 $0.04 $0.03 $0.05
Other Utilities $0.16 $0.15 $0.16 $0.19
Trash Collection/Disposal $0.04 $0.05 $0.03 $0.05
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.33 $0.34 $0.34 $0.29
Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.24 $0.30 $0.23 $0.19
Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.03 $0.02 $0.06 $0.03
Other $0.20 $0.46 $0.14 $0.31
Total M&O Budget* $4.09 $3.85 $3.94 $4.73
Total District Expenditures (TDE) $57.46 $44.58 $57.62 $62.50
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).

**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

Privatization practices

The percentage of school districts contracting out maintenance and operations services:
Nat'l Median < 1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students > 3,500 students
14.6% 16.0% 10.0% 15.1%

Square-footage data

Median amount of square feet (SF) and acreage maintained at school districts:

 
  Nat'l Median <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
SF maintained per full-time custodial worker 25,173 26,650 25,167 22,772
SF maintained per full-time maintenance worker 100,720 106,113 116,272 80,240
Acres maintained per full-time grounds worker 40 23 43 37
SF maintained per building 57,243 29,500 60,214 66,100
SF of building maintained per student 174.66 237.56 187.97 136.31

 

Total gross area of buildings maintained

(including corridors and other common office areas of all district buildings) by survey respondents

Less than 125,000 square feet 13
125,000 to 249,999 square feet 13
250,000 to 449,999 square feet 15
450,000 to 699,999 square feet 15
700,000 to 1,249,999 square feet 12
1,250,000 square feet or more 17
No answer 15

Total gross area of grounds maintained

(by survey respondents)

Less than 10 acres 10%
10 to 24 acres 9%
25 to 49 acres 11%
50 to 99 acres 15%
100 to 199 acres 13%
200 acres or more 17%
No answer 25%

 

M&O expenditures over the decade

Spending by school districts on maintenance and operations as a percentage of total district expenditures over the past 10 years:

1997 9.59%
1998 9.40%
1999 9.09%
2000 9.03%
2001 8.50%
2002 7.78%
2003 7.43%
2004 7.70%
2005 7.51%
2006 7.58%

 

Salary data

Median salary for custodial and maintenance personnel at school districts:

  Nat'l Median < 1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students > 3,500 students
Custodial $27,401 $21,517 $28,240 $31,413
Maintenance $35,000 $32,505 $32,948 $40,891

 

Personnel breakout

Average number of full-time custodial and maintenance personnel at school districts:

  Nat'l Mean < 1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students > 3,500 students
Custodial 39 4 15 93
Maintenance 15 2 3 36

 

Total maintenance and operations expenditures

(per survey respondents)

Less than $449,999 15%
$450,000 to $999,999 17%
$1 million to $1,749,999 16%
$1,750,000 to $2,749,999 16%
$2,750,000 to $6,499,999 16%
$6,500,000 or more 17%
No answer 3%

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.

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