District leaders face some of the most strenuous cost-saving decisions of any industry. Does saving money on tangible resources mean an additional teacher can be hired to offset large class sizes? Is the right place to cut costs in transportation fees, and if so, what does that mean for students who live far away with parents that work full-time? Pair that with budget reductions, and determining how to allocate school funding becomes even more difficult.
We don’t have all the answers, but we do have seven ways your school district can save money while keeping student performance top of mind.
1. Rent facility space to the community
So this first idea isn’t a way to cut costs; it’s a way to offset them.
Renting out school facilities to community members is a great way to bring in a bit of money for a rainy day fund. Scout troops, some religious groups, and recreational sports leagues are all constantly seeking out a place to host their events. Make your school an option by creating an easy and effective way for community members to reserve and pay for space in your facility digitally.
If you’re looking for an easy way to track facility rentals and payments, facility rental software might be the answer.
2. Go paperless (or simply reduce paper usage)
Did you know that the average school spends $3,000-$4,000 on paper, ink, and toner each month? That is a lot of money. Going paperless has the potential to save you tens of thousands of dollars each year.
Even though going completely paperless isn’t realistic for most public schools, actively trying to reduce paper usage is. Encourage teachers to re-use paper handouts when possible and make worksheets available online for students with access to a personal device.
3. Optimize transportation costs
Transportation and busing costs may seem like a sunk cost that you just have to bite the bullet on, but there are some easy ways to cut corners without eliminating access to busing. In Zanesville, OH, the Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center is in the middle of a project designed to save 20 rural school districts $4 million in transportation costs through reduced bus fleets, lower fuel costs, optimized bus routes, and shared bus services among districts.
Saving money on transportation is possible, and it might be easier than you think. Bus Boss has put together a great list of ways to reduce busing costs. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Analyze routes: Use transportation optimization software or a GPS to ensure your buses are taking the most efficient route possible. Look for opportunities to combine bus routes and relocate bus stops to make the course more concise.
- Rethink your fuel: There are several ways to tackle the issue of fuel. The first is to consider cheaper fuel alternatives or access to special school bus fuel discounts. The second is to explore fuel-efficient hybrid or electric vehicles and engines. While this may seem like a daunting upfront cost, old busses can be retrofitted or simply phased out and replaced with more efficient models the next time a bus needs to be replaced.
4. Track inventory effectively
Ineffective resource allocation is a sneaky situation where unintentional costs can add up. With so many different facilities to keep track of in one district, making sure the right supplies are always ordered at the right time and get to the right school building can be a pain point.
Running out of critical supplies and being forced to purchase them up at local stores can cost hundreds or thousands in unplanned costs. Conversely, incorrectly ordering too many supplies can throw off your school budget and leave you with no room to store other necessities.
In this case study, you can see how one facility saved $18,000 a year in inventory costs by optimizing its tracking and ordering system. Not only will optimizing resource allocation save you money, but it also saves time. Grand Prairie Independent School District was able to reduce inventory fulfillment times by 75% through improved approval, pulling, and delivery processes.
5. Focus on energy efficiency
Energy efficiency is an excellent opportunity to invest in because it saves your facility money and is also great for the planet! The amount of money wasted from poor energy planning is astonishing. An estimated 25% of the nation’s schools’ energy costs—$2 billion—can be saved each year by implementing energy-saving technology.
In central Ohio, Olentangy Local Schools, a large K 12 district, implemented software to track electricity usage in more than 25 facilities. The district’s energy program has yielded cost avoidance on utilities like electricity and gas, reducing spending by more than $3 million since 2014.
So how exactly do you go about becoming more energy efficient? That’s a great question, but it doesn’t have just one answer. Payless Power put together a list of easy fixes that save energy that can act as a great jumping-off point. Most of these recommendations can be implemented in one afternoon. If you’re looking for a more lasting impact, consider investing in energy tracking software that can help you find more opportunities to save.
6. Outsource non-educational functions
Lots of costs come from all the functions that go into running a school outside of instruction. Many times, public schools may not realize how much they could save by outsourcing non-educational functions like transportation, food service, and specialized maintenance.
In fact, this paper from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy reported that Philadelphia’s school district saved over $29 million in just two years by relying on privatized transportation, food service, custodial, and other tasks. Chicago’s school district saved $20 million over three years by contracting out its bus service. There are considerable savings to be found by reevaluating how your district is going about employing non-educational functions
7. Invest in routine and preventive maintenance
When it comes to essential pieces of equipment that keep your facility operating smoothly (i.e., HVAC, plumbing, electric, etc.), relying on an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality can end up costing you big time. In fact, deferring to emergency repairs instead of routine and preventive maintenance costs anywhere from 3 to 9 times what preventive maintenance would have cost.
- Routine maintenance consists of simple, everyday tasks that can help you catch potential problems before they turn into disasters. Routine maintenance might be as simple as stocking bathrooms with toilet paper at the end of every day or as complex as inspecting and adjusting heavy machinery.
- Preventive maintenance is similar to routine in that it aims to prevent major malfunctions, but it’s a bit more complex and specialized. Preventive maintenance usually involves maintenance tasks on equipment to keep it in the best condition possible. Typically, this manifests as scheduled inspections and tasks (lubrication, chain or belt adjustments, etc.) performed on assets and equipment to ensure they are working the way the manufacturer intended.
Running any large organization is hard, but when you add in the constant budget cuts that most school districts face, it can seem impossible to stay afloat. Hopefully, these cost-saving ideas can help your district save in meaningful ways.
To save even more, consider tracking facility KPIs. Start by determining which metrics your district should be tracking, then establish benchmarks and goals with those metrics to help your district make data-driven decisions. Check out this eGuide on the metrics that matter to help you determine what KPIs your facility should be paying attention to.
If your district is looking for additional benefits, facilities management software for schools gives you the ability to streamline all your processes in one easy-to-use system. From facility rental to maintenance management to transportation scheduling, it’s the one-stop shop solution that’s helped hundreds of districts significantly reduce costs.