LAPS Administrative Costs

by Save Our Schools Los Alamos

A question we’ve frequently heard from parents and other community members about K-12 education funding here in Los Alamos involves our School District’s administrative costs, including the costs of the central District office and the cost of the personnel who oversee the schools, such as principals and assistant principals. 

When we’re asked about central administrative costs, we often hear the suggestion that administrative costs are inflated and that too much of the district’s limited operating revenues go toward costs for personnel who don’t impact the students’ classroom experience. 

This week we did an evaluation of this area of school spending in Los Alamos.

Los Alamos Public School District Budget — How the Money is Spent

Based on LAPS information provided to the Los Alamos School Board in December, 2013, the fiscal year 2013-2014 Operations Budget of about $36 million is broken out as follows:

  • Direct Student Costs (i.e. Teachers, Nurses, Librarians, Instructional Assistants as well as Student Services Salaries & Benefits):  $24 million or 67% of the operating budget;
  • Other Costs including Supplies, Travel, Utilities ($1.1 million), Liability Insurance ($600,000):  $5.4 million or 15% of the operating budget;
  • Administrative Costs (Salaries & Benefits):  $3.7 million or 10% of the operating budget;
  • Maintenance & Transportation (Salaries & Benefits):  $2.7 million or 8% of the operating budget.

So, LAPS District’s general and school administrative costs are 10% of the district’s operating budget and all indirect costs (administration, transportation, maintenance, utilities, insurance) add up to about 32% of total LAPS operating expenses. 

LAPS General and School Administration — Who Does What?

Based on the current 2013 LAPS Organizational Chart passed out at a recent school board meeting, there are 10 principals or assistant principals responsible for the administration of the 7 schools in the LAPS district. 

There are approximately 100 employees at the district office who oversee administration (Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent/Director of Human Resources), Finance (Chief Financial Officer, Payroll, Purchasing, Comptroller), Transportation, Curriculum (Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Technology Software Group), and Operations (Chief Operations Officer, Facilities & Maintenance, Technology Hardware).

There are about another forty district employees who provide student services like educational testing or reading/math coaches; but these positions are included in direct student costs.

COMPARISON OF LAPS TO OTHER NEW MEXICO SCHOOL DISTRICTS

To understand whether LAPS indirect expenses are consistent with other school districts, we benchmarked with other New Mexico communities that have similar enrollments.  The following data comes from the 2011 U.S. Census.

New Mexico has 89 school districts.  In 2011, the largest school district in terms of enrollment was the Albuquerque School District with 95,415 students; the smallest school district was Roy School District with an enrollment of 42.  There were 49 school districts in New Mexico with enrollments of less than 1,000 and 7 school districts with enrollments of less than 100.  Los Alamos ranked 20th out of 89 school districts with an enrollment of 3,455.

Using U.S. Census data, we identified 15 New Mexico School Districts that have enrollments between 5,000 and 2,000.  For those districts, we looked at the percentage of total operating revenues that go to 1) general (district office) and school (principals) administration, and 2) total indirect operating expenses.

 

 

School District

 

2011 Enrollment

% of General and School Admin $

 

% of Total Indirect $

Belen

4,722

7%

32%

Espanola

4,388

8%

38%

Grants-Cibola

3,676

7%

32%

Artesia

3,621

7%

26%

Los Alamos

3,455

6%

32%

Moriarty

3,388

6%

35%

Aztec

3,375

7%

29%

Lovington

3,355

8%

29%

Bernalillo

3,299

6%

31%

Bloomfield

3,089

9%

32%

Portales

3,081

9%

34%

Silver

3,044

7%

35%

Taos

3,014

7%

30%

Ruidoso

2,238

6%

30%

Pojoaque

2,052

9%

38%

 

To compare the New Mexico benchmarks with another region in the United States, we looked at several school districts in Virginia that ranked as Los Alamos benchmarks in terms of median household income in a prior Save Our Schools Los Alamos article:

 

 

School District

 

2011 Enrollment

% of General and School Admin $

 

% of Total Indirect $

Falls Church City

2,084

8%

35%

Loudon County

63,142

5%

28%

Arlington County

21,485

6%

29%

Stafford County

27,257

8%

31%

 

Our conclusion is that LAPS administrative and indirect student costs are consistent with other New Mexico school districts, and with other benchmark communities.

Save Our Schools Los Alamos appreciates that there are usually opportunities to reduce administrative costs in most organizations and we encourage LAPS to pursue those opportunities.  However, based on our benchmarking review, it doesn’t appear that the pressures on staff compensation, class size, and student enrichment are driven by excessive administrative and support spending at the School District.  That’s a positive reflection on the stewardship undertaken by the School Board and LAPS staff.

To read more about Save Our Schools Los  Alamos, go to http://soslosalamos.com.

Sources:

http://www.laschools.net/cms/lib07/NM01000458/Centricity/Domain/89/Board%20Retreat%20Packet%2012.19.13.2.pdf

http://search.census.gov/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=census&query=k-12+administrative+costs+2012&commit.x=0&commit.y=0

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