Utah legislative auditors find school district efficiencies

Thursday , February 06, 2014 - 10:04 AM

Antone Clark, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY – Davis and Box Elder school districts are among the state’s best when it comes to providing cost effective school lunches, while the Davis School District uses a model for measuring the efficiency of each district building that other districts might want to consider, an audit of the best practices of Utah schools shows.

In an effort to find out what works best and where, state leaders asked the Office of the Legislative Auditor General to conduct a probe of best practices among school districts in the Beehive State. The audit focused on food services, food transportation, energy use, school security and contracted services. The outline was released on Tuesday afternoon.

State Superintendent of Schools Martell Menlove said the state Board of Education would look closely at the review and have conservations with local districts about potential best practices. He suggested the diversity in the sizes of districts throughout the state means many districts do not share some commonalities.

Best practices were defined in the 56-page review as proven, successful methods that lead to high performance. The audit took a different tack and outlined potential practices districts could consider, rather than finding deficiencies in individual districts.

Specifically the review of best practices showed:

---Davis and Box Elder school districts were among the five most efficient districts in the state in producing meals at a low cost. Juab was the best with a cost of $2.45 per meal, followed by Davis at $2.48 and Box Elder at $2.49. Three of the districts, including Davis, prepare meals in a central kitchen. The audit suggested districts consider contracting for warehousing and delivery services, as a cost saving approach and also join purchasing cooperatives to receive discounts.

---Provo, South Sanpete, Washington and Wayne school districts have lower transportation costs per student than other districts in the state.

---Local districts should measure the energy performance of schools. Davis was cited as an example for measuring the energy usage per square foot for each of its buildings to monitor energy efficiency and potentially identify malfunctioning equipment.

---Minimizing security risks at the district level includes the

need to use physical deterrents to reduce the risk of violence as providing for both natural and formal surveillance. The audit also urged school resource officers to interact with students in creating a culture that resists violence.

---The Ogden and Logan school districts were cited as examples of districts that contract out a higher percentage of services. Logan hires out 22 percent of its service, while Ogden comes in at 19 percent. School districts should weigh the benefits of outside services and look for opportunities to employ outside providers, the audit said.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, suggested more districts should consider employing contractors to perform services like mowing the lawns, thus cutting down on the cost of equipment and maintenance. He cited at example in a Salt Lake County district where the service was still being done by the district.

“It’s frustrating because it highlights a need we have to use precious resources wisely. How do you know unless you check?” he said of potential cost savings.

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