Small Change: 33rd annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study

Results from AS&U's 33rd annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study

Reflecting ever-growing financial difficulties faced by school districts across the nation, percentage spending on maintenance and operations (M&O) continues to hover around historic lows.

Although more attention has been focused on such things as indoor environmental quality and cleanliness of schools, adequate funding to provide effective M&O services remains elusive. According to American School & University's 33rd annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study, the median school district spends 7.7 percent of total district expenditures (TDE) on M&O. While a slight uptick from the all-time-low 7.4 percent allocated last year, the small percentage amount remains a stark reminder of how difficult it continues to be to upkeep and operate America's aging education infrastructure on a shoestring budget.

About the study

To arrive at results for the annual study, chief business officials at the nation's public school districts were mailed in October a detailed questionnaire asking them to document various M&O costs, including salary/payroll, utilities, gas, electricity, maintenance and grounds equipment and supplies, outside contract labor and other costs, as well as maintenance practices.

Results are listed on a national level and by district enrollment, and identify budgeted expenditures for M&O per student and per square foot for the 2003-04 school year. Categories used in the survey questionnaire:

  • Per student: Based on enrollment (average daily attendance as of October 2003).

  • 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 2003-04 school year.

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

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

  • Maintenance: Those individuals who perform skilled jobs, such as HVAC, electrical 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 clerical costs, trash removal, travel expenses, equipment repair and rental, and insurance.

As you compare data, keep in mind that all costs are greatly affected by a number of factors, including the age and overall condition of buildings, climate, the labor market in your area, as well as other aspects over which school administrators have limited control.

Key findings

In addition to the cost data and tables provided, this year's study found:

  • The reported 2003-04 national median total M&O expenditure for school districts is $1.1 million. For districts under 1,000 students, the median total M&O expenditure is $376,812; for systems with 1,000-3,499 students, the median total M&O expenditure is $1.4 million; and for districts with more than 3,500 students, the median total M&O expenditure is $4.5 million.

  • The typical school district spends a median of $292,500/yr. for utilities and $93,098/yr. for custodial/maintenance equipment and supplies.

  • The amount of square feet maintained per custodian remained fairly consistent with past cost studies (23,787 square feet compared with 24,167 square feet last year). Square feet maintained per maintenance worker dipped to 90,757 from 95,120 square feet last year. Acres maintained per grounds worker grew to 47 from 36 last year.

  • While national median salary dropped slightly for custodial workers ($24,174 vs. $24,599 last year), salaries for maintenance and grounds workers increased ($33,039 vs. $31,860 last year and $29,744 vs. $24,725 last year, respectively).

  • The mean public school district has 39 full-time custodial, 14 full-time maintenance and three full-time grounds personnel.

  • It was less expensive to operate transportation programs this year. The median school district spends 4.6 percent of its total budget and $380 per pupil on transportation (5.5 percent and $389 per pupil last year).

  • Ten percent of the nation's school districts contract out M&O services. Districts with more than 3,500 students are almost four times more likely to privatize services than systems enrolling between 1,000 and 3,499 students.

 

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 $327.42 $319.60 $346.18 $311.05
  Custodial** $242.60 $247.69 $256.77 $199.97
  Maintenance** $82.05 $85.20 $68.84 $84.29
  Grounds** $23.72 $40.47 $26.65 $16.83
Outside Contract Labor $34.44 $67.38 $27.75 $29.70
Total Utilities $206.45 $237.98 $205.03 $186.78
  Gas** $55.84 $76.12 $58.50 $39.93
  Electricity** $107.69 $126.96 $106.42 $100.23
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $164.19 $192.25 $159.38 $151.43
  Other Fuels $21.36 $78.34 $12.53 $4.00
  Other Utilities $34.38 $42.50 $31.46 $29.76
  Trash Collection/Disposal $8.46 $9.86 $6.57 $7.34
Total Equipment & Supplies $55.49 $73.14 $61.10 $43.22
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $43.59 $51.27 $47.10 $27.90
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $11.82 $15.31 $11.82 $8.08
Other $54.73 $67.21 $41.33 $51.09
Total M&O* $678.53 $765.31 $681.39 $621.84
Total District Expenditures $8,363 $8,795 $8,172 $7,915
M&O as % TDE 7.70% 7.60% 8.00% 7.50%
*Calculated from subtotals (in red).
**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 $1.84 $1.60 $1.90 $2.06
  Custodial** $1.41 $1.17 $1.41 $1.52
  Maintenance** $0.47 $0.41 $0.40 $0.55
  Grounds** $0.14 $0.24 $0.13 $0.14
Outside Contract Labor $0.18 $0.32 $0.13 $0.17
Total Utilities $1.16 $1.12 $1.18 $1.18
  Gas** $0.31 $0.40 $0.31 $0.30
  Electricity** $0.60 $0.54 $0.61 $0.73
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $0.94 $0.93 $0.93 $1.01
  Other Fuels $0.10 $0.26 $0.09 $0.03
  Other Utilities $0.19 $0.20 $0.17 $0.21
  Trash Collection/Disposal $0.05 $0.05 $0.04 $0.06
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.32 $0.33 $0.31 $0.30
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.24 $0.24 $0.26 $0.18
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.06 $0.08 $0.05 $0.05
Other $0.34 $0.34 $0.26 $0.38
Total M&O Budget* $3.84 $3.71 $3.78 $4.09
Total District Expenditures $45.91 $40.48 $45.91 $55.47
*Calculated from subtotals (in red).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

Salary data

Median salary for custodial, maintenance and grounds personnel at school districts:

  Nat'l Median <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Custodial $24,174 $25,997 $22,237 $29,550
Maintenance $33,039 $30,000 $32,886 $45,519
Grounds $29,744 $20,768 $23,900 $30,036

Privatizing M&O

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
10.0% 10.7% 4.5% 16.7%

Square footage details

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 23,787 29,942 23,215 21,520
SF maintained per full-time maintenance worker 90,757 82,306 100,000 80,887
Acres maintained per full-time grounds worker 47 14 46 102
SF of building maintained per student 175.44 211.68 172.77 147.76
SF maintained per building 48,000 30,984 52,000 61,377

Personnel stats

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

  Nat'l Mean <1,000 students 1,000-3,499 students >3,500 students
Custodial Custodial 39 4 15 120
Maintenance 14 1 3 42
Grounds 3 0 1 7

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

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