Schools & School Districts
A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts
Just like colleges and universities, local schools and school districts are still feeling the impact of budget cuts made—particularly at the state level—back when the recession began. In fact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, after adjusting for inflation, 35 states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession really began to have an impact. This is problematic because in most cases, schools get nearly half of their funding from the states. In 2017, the research showed, at least 23 states planned to provide less "general" or "formula" funding, the main form of state support for elementary and secondary schools, than when the recession took hold in 2008.
Respondents to our Industry Report survey from schools, who make up 9.9 percent of all respondents, reflected these challenges, with budgets and plans continuing to struggle.
By far the largest percentage of school respondents were from the Midwest. Some 43.2 percent of school respondents said they were located in this region. They were distantly followed by the South Central region, where 17.2 percent of school respondents call home. Some 16.6 percent of school respondents were located in the Northeast, while 11.8 percent were found in the South Atlantic states, and 10.7 percent were from the West. Just 0.6 percent of school respondents said they were located outside the United States.
School respondents were much more likely than others to be located in rural communities. More than half (50.9 percent) of school respondents said they were in rural communities, compared with 37.4 percent of non-school respondents. Another 35.5 percent of school respondents ported in from suburban areas, and 13.6 percent were located in urban communities.
On average, school respondents said they serve a population of 34,300 people, the smallest population size of any subcategory in the survey. Nearly three-quarters (72.1 percent) of school respondents said that they reached a population of 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 44.7 percent of non-school respondents. Conversely, only 7.6 percent of school respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 or more, compared with 23.6 percent of non-school respondents.
The vast majority of schools covered by the survey are public. Some 89.5 percent of school respondents said they were with public schools. Another 8.1 percent were with private nonprofit organizations, and 1.7 percent said they were with private for-profit organizations. Another 0.6 percent, said they were with other types of organizations.
On average, school respondents said they manage 7.8 facilities. Some 43.6 percent said they manage between one and three facilities, while another 17.4 percent manage 10 or more facilities. That leaves another 39 percent in the middle, managing between four and nine facilities.
School respondents were slightly more likely than non-school respondents to report that they had partnered with outside organizations. Some 88.8 percent of school respondents said they had formed such partnerships, compared with 86.6 percent of non-school respondents. The most common partners for school respondents were: local schools (60.6 percent of school respondents said they had partnered with other local schools), local government (57.1 percent), state government (49.4 percent), federal government (32.9 percent), and nonprofit organizations (23.5 percent).
School respondents were far more likely than others to report that the primary audience served by their facilities was made up of teenagers 13 to 18 years old. Some 52.9 percent of school respondents said this was their primary audience, compared with 4.6 percent of non-school respondents. Another 21.5 percent of school respondents said they serve an all-ages audience, and 17.4 percent said children ages 4 to 12 were their primary audience.
Revenues & Expenditures
Schools continue to be among the least likely to report that their revenues are increasing, though there was a significant jump in that number from 2015 to 2016. While 12.5 percent of school respondents said their revenues had grown from 2014 to 2015, 21 percent saw revenues increase from 2015 to 2016. In that same time frame, though, the percentage who saw their revenues decrease also grew, from 13.4 percent to 16.8 percent. (See Figure 50.)
Looking forward, similar numbers expect increasing revenues, with 20.1 percent of school respondents projecting increases in 2017, and 23.1 percent projecting increases in 2018. However, 16.5 percent of school respondents said they think revenues will fall in 2017, and 14.4 percent expect further decreases to revenue in 2018.
School respondents saw a much more modest increase to their average operating expenditures from 2015 to 2016. While the general survey audience reported an increase of 17.5 percent, school respondents saw their operating expenditures increase by 2.4 percent, from $1,512,000 in 2015 to $1,548,000. Their average expenditure in 2016 was 24.3 percent lower than the average for all respondents of $2,044,000.
Looking forward, schools expect their operating expenditures to grow by 1.8 percent from 2016 to a total of $1,576,000 in 2018, a slightly smaller increase than the 3.5 percent growth expected among all respondents.
School respondents report that they recover, on average, 35.4 percent of their operating costs via revenue. This is up slightly from 2016, when schools recovered 32.4 percent of costs via revenue. Nearly one-half (47.3 percent) of school respondents reported that they recover 30 percent or less of their operating costs via revenue. Another 9 percent recover between 31 percent and 50 percent of their operating costs. Some 5.4 percent recover 51 percent to 70 percent of their costs. And 19.2 percent of school respondents said they recover at least 71 percent of their operating costs via revenues.
School respondents were less likely than non-school respondents to report that they had taken actions to reduce their operating costs, though a majority had done so. While 84 percent of non-school respondents said they had taken such action, 77 percent of school respondents had taken action to reduce their expenses, up from 74.4 percent in 2016. The most common measures employed by school respondents to reduce their operating costs included: improving energy efficiency (53.3 percent), reducing staff (24.8 percent), putting construction or renovation plans on hold (23.6 percent), increasing fees (23 percent), and cutting programs or services (17 percent).
As is generally the case, school respondents were among those most likely to report stable numbers of people using their facilities over time. From 2015 to 2016, 58.5 percent said the number of people using their facilities had stayed the same, while 34.5 percent reported an increase. (See Figure 51.) Looking forward, this trend holds, with 57.1 percent expecting usage to remain the same in 2016, and 58.5 percent expecting no change in 2018.
School respondents were less likely than others to report that they have plans for construction, though this number is up slightly from last year. While 52 percent of school respondents in 2016 said they were planning construction, some 55.2 percent of school respondents in 2017 have such plans. This compares with 69.8 percent of non-school respondents who have plans to build. School respondents in 2017 are most likely to be planning renovations, with 40.1 percent indicating they'll be renovating their existing facilities. Another 23.8 percent will be making additions, while 20.3 percent said they would build new facilities. (See Figure 52.)
After a couple of years of decreasing construction budgets, schools saw their average budget for construction rise in 2017. School respondents said their average budget for construction increased by 9.5 percent, from $4,920,000 in 2016 to $5,385,000 in 2017. This was 25.7 percent higher than the average construction budget for all respondents.
The features currently included among school respondents' facilities continue to remain consistent. The 10 most common features currently found among school respondents' facilities include: locker rooms, indoor courts for sports like basketball and volleyball, bleachers and seating, concessions, natural turf sports fields, outdoor tracks, classrooms and meeting rooms, fitness centers, outdoor courts for sports like basketball and tennis, and playgrounds.
Schools were much less likely than others to report that they had plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. While 42.6 percent of non-school respondents said they had such plans, just 30.8 percent of school respondents said they would be adding features at their facilities. However, this is an increase from 2016, when only 26.7 percent of school respondents had such plans.
The 10 most commonly planned additions include:
- Synthetic turf sports fields (34 percent of those with plans to add features)
- Bleachers and seating (20.8 percent)
- Outdoor tracks (18.9 percent)
- Playgrounds (15.1 percent)
- Outdoor courts for sports like basketball and tennis (13.2 percent)
- Walking and hiking trails (11.3 percent)
- Fitness centers (11.3 percent)
- Park restroom structures (11.3 percent)
- Fitness trail or outdoor fitness equipment (9.4 percent)
- Park shelters (9.4 percent)
More school respondents in 2017 than in 2016 are planning to add: synthetic turf sports fields (up from 33.9 percent), bleachers and seating (up from 16.9 percent), outdoor tracks (up from 11.9 percent), and playgrounds (up from 11.9 percent). Outdoor courts, walking and hiking trails, park restroom structures, fitness trails and park shelters did not appear among the top 10 planned features in 2016. They replace natural turf sports fields, classrooms and meeting rooms, climbing walls, indoor courts, and concessions.
The vast majority of school respondents (98.2 percent) said they offer programs of some kind at their facilities, compared with 96.9 percent of non-school respondents. The most common program offered is youth sports teams, found among 82.1 percent of school respondents, up from 78.3 percent in 2016.
Other programs commonly found among school respondents include: educational programs (67.3 percent), fitness programs (51.8 percent), sports tournaments and races (46.4 percent), holidays and other special events (37.5 percent), performing arts (34.5 percent), day camps and summer camps (33.9 percent), arts and crafts (32.7 percent), individual sports activities like running clubs (31.5 percent), and swimming programs (31 percent).
In addition to youth sports teams, programs that saw growth from 2016 to 2017 include fitness programs (up from 51.6 percent).
School respondents were much less likely than others to report that they had plans for additional programming at their facilities. While 33.7 percent of non-school respondents said they had such plans, just 18.6 percent of school respondents were planning to add programs. This is an increase from 2016, when only 15.8 percent of schools were planning to add programs.
The top planned programs among school respondents include:
- Fitness programs (no change)
- Educational programs (no change)
- Holidays and other special events (did not appear in 2016)
- Youth sports teams (no change)
- Mind-body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi (up from No. 7)
- Individual sports activities such as running clubs (down from No. 5)
- Day camps and summer camps (did not appear in 2016)
- Special needs programs (up from No. 9)
- Arts and crafts (did not appear in 2016)
- Sports tournaments and races (down from No. 3)
Programs that dropped off the top 10 list from 2016 include: performing arts programs, teen programs and swimming programs.
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