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Audit Helps Bedford Schools Cut Custodian Overtime Costs

School officials expect to save nearly $100,000 in overtime costs next year.

Bedford school officials are hopeful that a new plan will enable them to gain major savings in their custodial staffing.

Mark Betz, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, presented a corrective action plan that was developed in response to a state comptroller’s audit on custodial staffing and overtime costs.

The Office of the State Comptroller conducted the audit earlier this school year and focused on staffing levels and overtime costs from  July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. Betz said some of the recommendations in the audit have already been used to find saving in next year’s budget proposal.

“I’m happy to say that we’re going to experience an almost $100,000 reduction,” Betz said.

There are 52 staff members employed in the district’s buildings and grounds department. The department had a budget of $8.5 million, with about $3.3 million being used for payroll, and is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of 822,859 square feet.

Overall, the district could reduce its custodial staff by 15 members if it follows the recommendations in the audit, the report said.

“We were taken aback by that because I know, from my evaluation of the operation here, that we have a pretty lean staffing configuration compared to lots of districts in the area and in this state,” Betz said.

Betz said he looked at the same data and reviewed the day-to-day duties of the custodial staff and found that the district is actually understaffed by 1.2 full-time equivalent custodians.

Still, Betz said the district received valuable insight from the calculations in the audit.

“I think the message was, ‘hey guys, how can you be sure you have the right staffing configuration and what are you measuring against,” Betz said.

The first recommendation in the report is for the district to develop a way to measure the performance  and efficiency of custodial workers. The district would then use this evaluation to improve efficiency and productivity.

“So we want to develop a rubric by which each building custodial staffing configuration  will be measured and we’re going to do that by developing first, a building profile,” Betz said.

Betz said the building profiles would contain information each building including the square footage, the complexity, the level of cleanliness expected and information on the amount of hours needed to perform custodial duties.

The second recommendation called for the district to hire part-time employees to supplement their full-time employees. This will help to minimize overtime costs, according to the report.

Betz said the district is in the process of recruiting and hiring a pool of part-time custodians that will be paid at a rate lower than the costs of paying full-time employees overtime. That process should be completed by June.

“We’ve already calculated that we intend to save about $97,000 a year in next year’s budget,” Betz said. “That’s 15 percent of our overtime budget.”

The district will also check to see if, at certain school-related activities, more volunteers could be used to offset overtime costs. The cost-benefit of outsourcing cleaning duties for properties that the district rents will also be looked at.

“We’re going to have to seek some potential contract revisions in the negotiation process if we want to gain a little more flexibility and some management controls,” Betz said.

Betz said the district intended to create a negotiations team to create a contract proposal by January.

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