Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 9, 2013
New study says in-house school custodians a bargain

Parents, staff and teachers from the Tooele County School District packed the district office at a board meeting last January to counter a presentation on outsourcing non-instructional staff.

Tuesday night the association that represents non-instructional staff returned with a report that concluded the district is already receiving top value for its custodial service dollars from in-house employees.

“You are already getting the best value for your dollars,” said Sandy Drake, Tooele Education Support Professional Association president, as she presented the board with a report completed by Waxie Sanitary Supply, a national company that sells custodial and cleaning supplies.

In January, the school board heard a presentation from Jeff Hogan, one of its members, about potential savings through outsourcing non-instructional work.

Hogan presented preliminary findings that estimated a possible savings of $70,000 a year by contracting out for cleaning of restrooms, classrooms, offices, and common areas in one school building.

The report prepared by Waxie at the request of TESPA was for one school, Copper Canyon Elementary.

Using a professional industry program that analyzes tasks, work load and costs utilizing industry standards, the Waxie report concludes that “Tooele County School District would continue to receive benefit from district custodial staff.”

Using the lowest costs obtained from local contractors and actual costs of in-house custodians, the report shows that the school district would spend $36,111 annually for in-house daily custodial tasks at Copper Canyon and $79,594 for daily cleaning tasks for the lowest priced contractor included in the study.

Additional non-custodial work would cost an additional $45,202 over current in-house costs, according to the Waxie study.

The study also claims that according to industry standards, developed by the International Sanitary Supply Association, the custodial staff at Copper Canyon Elementary is understaffed by nearly two full-time people.

However, a site visit to Copper Canyon indicated that the school had a higher than average level of cleanliness.

The report also included three references from schools that decided not to outsource after Waxie completed a similar study for them.

The schools included Brigham Young University – Idaho, The Sweetwater School District in Green River, Wyo. and Jeffco Public Schools in Lakewood, Colo.

“Brigham Young University ultimately concluded that outsourcing was not in our best interest either financially or for the facilities,” wrote Doug Watson, facilities director at BYU-Idaho in a letter that accompanied the Waxie study for TESPA.

The Waxie study also mentions un-quantifiable benefits  provided by district employees that are managed by district staff and have the best interest of the schools and patrons, as a major factor that should be considered in a decision about outsourcing.

TESPA did its own time analysis of custodial staff. They had custodians write down everything they did during the day for an eight-week period.

A total of 39 custodians from 17 schools participated.

The study showed that 54 percent of a custodian’s day is spent on custodial duties such as cleaning, 15 percent is spent on maintenance, which includes fixing things and checking the operation of equipment, and 31 percent of their time was spent on service or performing non-custodial duties at the school.

“This study shows that while you may be able to contract out cleaning, custodians do much more than clean,” said Drake.

The Waxie study, prepared for TESPA is flawed, according to Hogan.

“The report utilized a model where every job or service is outsourced to a discreet company as opposed to contracting the entire job to a single provider,” said Hogan. “This type of model is not utilized in the business world due to the cost.”

Hogan also questioned some of the report’s assumptions.

“The calculations for the outsourced per hour labor is based on a simple average of a high and a low hourly rate,” said Hogan. “One example from the report averages trade contract labor at $115 per hour based on a low of $30 and a high of $200. This is the definition of skewed data. The $200 per hour could be an outlier used specifically to drive up the average.”

Hogan also asserted that no supporting documentation was provided for the basis of the calculations and no pricing was obtained from a company that specifically specializes in the maintenance of a large facility like an elementary school building.

The report was an information item and the board took no action on outsourcing following Drake’s presentation.

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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