Spending by school districts on maintenance and operations increased in 2006-07, reversing years of historic low expenditures. According to American School & University's 36th annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study, the median school district spends 9.19 percent of total district expenditures (TDE) on M&O, up from 7.58 percent the year before.

While percentage spending has not been this high since the late 1990s, the amount still is significantly less than what was spent 20 years ago. Of particular note is that utility spending represented the largest category increase (28 percent) — reflecting among other things rapidly rising energy costs.

What follows is a compilation of findings from the latest M&O Cost Study that can help you in benchmarking expenditures at your institution. As you peruse the data, keep in mind that all costs are affected greatly by numerous factors that schools have limited control over, including age and overall condition of buildings, climate, the labor market in your area, as well as other aspects. In addition, data provided are not intended to be “ideal” amounts for M&O allocations — they are only reflections of actual spending by school districts.

Survey methodology

To arrive at data for the M&O Cost Study, a detailed questionnaire was mailed in October 2006 to chief business officials at the nation's public school districts asking them to document their institutions' M&O expenditures per student and per square foot for the 2006-07 school year. Categories include:

  • Per student: Based on total district enrollment (average daily attendance as of October 2006).

  • 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 2006-07 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 clerical costs, equipment repair and rental, insurance and travel.