The average school district loses nearly a quarter of a million dollars annually to asset loss and damage costs, according to a recent study of district asset management. Larger districts lose even more, some topping $1.4 million in loss and damage annually.
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“Asset management is a critical district business function,” Jeanne Hayes, President of the Hayes Connections, one of the study’s co-sponsors, said in a prepared statement. “The picture that emerges is one of frustration and confusion. Districts say they are having to do more asset reporting than ever before, but they’re having more and more difficulty keeping up with the task.”
The study, co-sponsored by Follett Software Company and conducted in conjunction with Quality Education Data, provides a picture of how districts manage their assets and the growing challenges they face. The survey findings illustrate the importance of the emerging category of Educational Resource Management (ERM) solutions – products and solutions that centralize the management of district resources.
Other major findings of the study include:
- Investments in educational technology (primarily computer and audiovisual equipment) are among the assets most at risk, averaging more than $80,000 in loss annually per district.
- Districts that used annual tracking for computers reported a 41 percent greater annual cost of loss/damage than those that used a commercial asset tracking program, and a 32 percent greater loss than those that used a spreadsheet/database program.
- Districts typically have no single technique for managing assets, but often use multiple systems depending on the asset; in fact 66 percent of districts use two or more different kinds of tracking systems.
- Most (59 percent) districts are still using manual systems or simple spreadsheets or databases (51 percent) to track at least some of their assets, although larger districts are increasingly adopting dedicated commercial asset tracking programs or developing their own.
- Districts are struggling with a number of related problems, primarily involved with finding the time, money, personnel and tools to keep track of assets. “The departments in charge of those assets are not aware that we need to keep the lists up to date with deletions and additions,” one district administrator complained. “In my opinion the biggest drawback is the time management. We do not have enough time and enough people to manage the assets,” another respondent said.
The data helps explain the emergence of a new class of technology solutions, call Educational Resource Management (ERM), according to Follett Software Company president Tom Schenck. “District business managers clearly recognize the need to get a better handle on their assets,” Schenck said in a prepared statement. “This is driving demand for ERM solutions which provide a single, coherent, district-wide framework for distributing and tracking assets.
“Centralizing the management of resources – library materials and media, textbooks, fixed and portable assets – has proven to be the key to helping districts free up time and money for instruction. A centralized Educational Resource Management solution reduces administrative costs and redirects those savings toward instruction,” Schenck said.
The study surveyed 479 district business managers, administrators and technology chiefs in all 48 contiguous states. Respondents were asked about the problems they faced in managing assets, and about the systems they used to keep track of everything from laptops to band uniforms. They were also asked to estimate the cost of loss, damage and redundant purchases of these assets.