School closures recommended by audit; changes could save $54M
An audit of Washington's 10 largest school districts recommends changes that could save those districts $54 million over five years ...
Seattle Times education reporter
Full report: www.sao.wa.gov
An audit of Washington's 10 largest school districts recommends changes that could save those districts $54 million over five years — including $28.5 million in Seattle — by closing more schools and reducing the number of administrators.
The audit was conducted by Cotton & Co., which looked at the administrative and overhead operations of the 10 districts from 2004 through 2006. Washington state spends $5.5 billion each year on public schools. The audit was overseen by the state Auditor's Office, which, under an initiative passed in 2005, has the authority to conduct independent reviews of the performance of state and local governments.
The Puget Sound-area school districts included in the audit were Edmonds, Federal Way, Kent, Lake Washington, Puyallup and Tacoma as well as Seattle Public Schools.
• Seattle Public Schools was the district where auditors recommended the biggest savings. In addition to closing schools, the auditors said Seattle should consider trimming its executive staff to be in line with the other nine districts, at an estimated savings of $10.5 million over five years. Seattle, the auditors said, has one executive staff member for every 741 full-time students. The average of the 10 districts was one for every 1,220 full-time students. The district responded by saying its executive staffing is comparable to other urban districts, and that it is much bigger and much more complex than the other districts covered in the audit.
• Edmonds and Puyallup could save money by fully automating bus routes, the auditors said. Estimated savings for Edmonds would be nearly $2 million over five years, and nearly $3 million in Puyallup.
• The auditors recommended that Federal Way, Lake Washington and Seattle do more to keep up their buildings, maximizing their useful life and avoiding costly repairs.
• Four of the 10 school districts, including Kent, Lake Washington and Puyallup, use too many portable classrooms, auditors said, which they said are more expensive to maintain and operate than typical school buildings. Puyallup uses the most, with portables making up about 26 percent of its classrooms.
• All the school districts were asked to do more to track costs of food service and student transportation to make sure they are cost-effective.
The audit cost $1.4 million to complete. The school districts must hold at least one public hearing about the findings, and accept public comment for 30 days. Districts can't be penalized for failing to carry out the audit recommendations, but they must write an annual report on what they've done to implement them, or why they haven't.
Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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