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Auditor’s Study Shows Belmont County School Districts Could Improve Efficiency, Save Money Through Shared Services
Columbus – In a first-of-its-kind feasibility study, Auditor of State Dave Yost has determined that several Belmont County School districts could improve efficiency and save money by combining bus maintenance services.
In addition, some potentially could avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement costs for maintenance facilities and buses.
The study was requested by Bellaire Local School District in conjunction with Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, Shadyside Local School District, and St. Clairsville-Richland City School District. The Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center and the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center are supporting partners.
In recent years, the four school districts have seen a general decline in school bus ridership and their bus operations have received a decreasing share of each district’s overall budget.
The study analyzed bus maintenance data from the four districts to determine if sharing facilities and staff could help the districts operate more efficiently. In most scenarios, analysts found that the answer is yes.
The study was launched as a result of House Bill 5, which authorized the Auditor of State to conduct feasibility studies on behalf of local governments interested in improving services by combining resources.
“Ohio has thousands of local government entities, which has the advantage of keeping government close to the people, but the drawback is duplication of effort,” said Auditor Yost. “Sharing services can keep government close to the people while reducing redundant administration, facilities and equipment. This saves money and improves efficiency for taxpayers. It also is a way to continue providing an adequate level of service even if costs rise or budgets shrink.”
AOS staff analyzed data about bus maintenance, bus usage and facilities. This resulted in a series of scenarios in which districts could achieve savings and efficiencies. Also, the data-driven analysis method used in the study is a tool that district leaders can continue to use to better inform decisions about transportation policy.
The feasibility study considered a variety of scenarios in which two or more districts pool resources. Depending on the scenario, these are some of the benefits participating school districts could reap from sharing services:
Bellaire Local School District
- Bellaire is well-positioned to supply bus maintenance services to one or more of the partner districts.
- Shared services would mean sustained, stable workload and job security for maintenance staff.
- In-sourcing maintenance work from other districts would generate additional revenue to support maintenance facilities.
- Depending on the shared services scenario, Bellaire could reduce its spare bus fleet and realize annual insurance savings and revenue from the sale of buses.
Bridgeport Exempted Village School District
- Bridgeport’s current bus maintenance workload doesn’t support the expense of maintaining or fully staffing a vehicle maintenance garage.
- Bridgeport currently outsources its maintenance work. By outsourcing to Bellaire, Bridgeport could reduce costs and diversify its maintenance options.
- By strengthening its outsourcing option, Bridgeport avoids the capital investment in a maintenance garage.
- Depending on the shared services scenario, Bridgeport could reduce its spare bus fleet and realize annual insurance savings and revenue from the sale of buses.
Shadyside Local School District
- Shadyside’s bus maintenance workload does not support the expense of maintaining or fully staffing a vehicle maintenance garage.
- Outsourcing to Bellaire could save money by avoiding mechanic overtime.
- By pursuing the outsourcing option, Shadyside avoids the capital investment of replacing its maintenance garage when it becomes obsolete.
- Depending on the shared services scenario, Shadyside could reduce its spare bus fleet and realize annual insurance savings and revenue from the sale of buses.
St. Clairsville-Richland City School District
- Based on St. Clairsville’s current labor cost structure, the district would not benefit from outsourcing to Bellaire at this time.
- Ridership and budget trends combined with changing labor conditions could make outsourcing to Bellaire a viable option.
- St. Clairsville also could use the methodologies in this study to identify opportunities to insource maintenance from neighboring school districts, in the same way proposed for Bellaire. This could offset costs associated with building a garage, provide for job stability, and provide revenue for the district.
- Depending on the shared services scenario, St. Clairsville could reduce its spare bus fleet and realize annual insurance savings and revenue from the sale of buses.
A full copy of this report is available online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.