5 Key Points For School Districts To Reduce Operating Costs


School districts constantly face the predicament of increasing expenses versus decreasing revenue. They have to provide education without compromising on quality.

Reducing operating costs involves controlling expenses by eliminating unnecessary spending or reducing costs to stay with the constraints of a budget.

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The costs of day to day operations can be curtailed with close monitoring of factors that aid in reducing expenses.


1. Financial plan

The very first step for school districts is to draw up a financial plan within the budget provided. This can then be used as a benchmark to monitor progress and expenses.

The plan needs to list the cost of significant activities listed out for the academic session, the specific strategy to be used in carrying out the activities and the resources to be used to complete the activities successfully.


A periodic comparison of costs incurred in all schools in the district will serve as a tool to guide the schools on economizing expenses.

Shortfall faced in revenue points to poor management of resources.  Any financial surplus or excess balances in the school districts indicate that the money is not being used wisely to improve the outcomes of the children. Hence balancing the budget is extremely crucial in effectively running a school.


2. Staffing costs

The cost of hiring personnel forms the major share of a school district’s budget. It is estimated that 80% of the budget is spent on employees.

Schools have to utilize their staff to the best effect. Hiring competent teachers reduce training costs. Support roles have to be created for the staff so that they can be deployed in lieu of staff absences.

Recruitment costs have to be kept to a minimum. Strategies to retain staff and reduce staff turnover have to be implemented. Reducing workloads help in staff retention.

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Staffing needs to be flexible based on the number of students. At the start of academic sessions, the total number of students and teachers has to be tabulated.

Surplus teachers in any school may be deployed to schools facing shortage of staff instead of being kept idle. This will help in curtailing excessive recruitment.

Digital resources provided to teachers for lesson preparation saves time. Multiple users can use the resources saving expenditure in procuring them. Replacing manual attendance registers with automated ones saves expenses on stationery.

Teachers are to be deployed where they have maximum impact. This is to be decided from the results attained in the various activities.

Employment of two part-time staff to cover the duties of full-time employee results in an increase in health insurance costs. It is better to employ full-time employees to reduce costs.


3. Transportation costs

Expenses on fuel are the highest in transportation costs. A fleet of school buses catering to all the schools in the district will be beneficial in lowering transportation expenses.

 A school bus plying on a single route may be scheduled to pick up students of different schools residing on that particular route. This reduces the need for separate buses for each school.

Implementing routing software ensures the routes taken by the buses are efficient and reasonable. The software minimizes the number of buses needed while optimizing transportation times.

This automatically reduces fuel consumption, the number of drivers and support staff, and wear and tear of the vehicle subsequently lowering expenses.

Cost of purchase of new buses can be shared between schools. The cost of maintenance too is shared. In case of breakdowns, replacement buses can be deployed from the fleet quickly saving cost and time. Prudent disposal of old buses will reduce the cost of major maintenance.


4. Utility bills

Another key factor to reduce expenses is to intentionally bring down the electricity bills. Lighting accounts for half of the electric bills in all schools.

Replacing standard light bulbs with energy efficient LED light bulbs and fixtures in all schools will drastically reduce energy consumption. Low watt compact fluorescent bulbs can be used in classrooms.

Automated systems to switch off all lights, fans and air-condition equipment at specified times can be installed. Occupancy sensors that automatically turn off the lights when no one is in the room can be installed in classrooms and other common areas to save energy and reduce the expenses on electricity.

To minimize heating and cooling costs programmable thermostats can be installed. This will help to minimize operating hours of the system in low occupancy areas like the gym and cafeteria. Regular maintenance of the filters maximizes efficiency and minimizes utility bills.

Another area of high energy demand is in the functioning of office equipment, computers, refrigerators and other appliances. All equipments are to be connected to surge protectors and have to be turned off when not in use during the night, over weekends and during holidays.

Installation of energy star equipment can save up to 50% on costs. Regular maintenance protects the appliances and detects leakages or short circuits if any.

Conditioning the users to more conservative ways of usage and energy-minded behavior will help in control of the utility bills. This includes the use of less water and turning off lights when leaving the area of operation.


5. Optimal use of resource and facilities

The administrators have to enforce the use of technology to reduce paperwork, printing and postage. E-mails and telephone messages have to be sent to communicate with schools and parents.

Online banking systems have to be adopted for payments thus eliminating the need for paper checks.

Leasing of lines for software and internet applications might turn expensive in the long run with rental costs being increased periodically.

A one-time investment, though heavy, will prove beneficial in cutting costs. The costs can be shared by schools functioning close to each other.

The school districts need to have a centralized purchase program wherein all the requirements are consolidated and supplied.

This type of procuring helps in obtaining volume discounts. They get better deals than buying at retail stores. This saves time and the need for  

In today’s scenario where technology helps logistics immensely, it is not necessary to have large spaces for storage.

Purchase orders can be placed only when required, specifying the time and date of delivery, to avoid overstocking of materials. The districts can thus save on money spent on hiring warehouses and other storage spaces.

If the number of students and employees are higher in a school, catering in-house might prove cost-effective. School districts can think of a centralized kitchen supplying to all schools.

This involves transportation costs. Cost comparison between outdoor and in-house catering would be ideal before a decision is taken.


Building maintenance is an area which normally is overlooked and results in major expenditure. Implementation of regular building checks to detect problem areas is essential.

An in-house ad-hoc maintenance team would be ideal rather than maintenance providers. This team can be utilized for other services during down times.

An in-house ad-hoc maintenance team would be ideal rather than maintenance providers. This team can be utilized for other services during down times.

It would be advisable to have pamphlets distributed on energy conservation methods to students and staff.

Posters placed around the school stating the need for conservation of energy and resources will serve as constant reminders.

It is always worthwhile to collaborate with other schools to share details of processes and ideas to achieve economies of scale.

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Regular evaluation of the school’s performance allows for better allocation of funds to the more successful activities.

Whatever the factors involved, general awareness to reduce expenses has to be created in all persons and activities involved. The efforts initiated on individual school levels will reflect on the school district’s success in reducing operating expenses.

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