Discovering How Much Overwhelmed Facilities Can Truly Cost School Districts
Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) serves the city of Santa Ana, located in the heart of Orange County, California. As the seventh largest school district in the state and the second largest in the county, it’s comprised of 56 schools, serving over 58,000 students. Additionally, SAUSD remains the second biggest employer in Santa Ana, providing opportunities to over 4,500 employees.
The district also plays a critical role within the community. Santa Ana is one of the most densely populated cities in the entire country and roughly two out of three families are apartment dwellers. Unfortunately, few parks and recreational areas were planned for the city, resulting in a severe lack of public community space in the region. Combined with the overcrowding issue, this leaves limited areas for children to play or for communities to utilize for civic engagement. As a result, school facilities and fields have become a significant, essential resource for nearly all community activities.
Along with the responsibility of hosting a large number of community groups comes a vast amount of district-wide facilities management, operational and scheduling demands. Functioning with a facilities management staff of less than three employees, SAUSD was inundated with facility use requests from school and community organizations alike.
The small team did utilize a facilities scheduling software to stay organized, but they struggled to use the outdated and often complicated program that offered little customer support or troubleshooting resources.
“Given the sheer number of inbound inquiries, accurately coordinating these facility use requests with existing school calendars proved to be extremely challenging,” shared Orin Williams, Assistant Superintendent, Facilities and Governmental Relations at SAUSD. “Ultimately, these circumstances resulted in our district facing an overwhelming backlog of over 600 facility use requests.”
After learning about Facilitron at a conference, the district began the vetting process amongst peer districts who had experience with the platform. SAUSD was met with extensive positive feedback and opted to implement Facilitron in September 2018. Within only a few months, the backlogged requests were completely eliminated. The facilities management team is now also able to spend more time catering to each request, providing a higher level of service to all renters.
Facilitron offers a unique, holistic approach to building and managing a facility use program. The platform enables schools to execute a digital approval process that eliminates delays and bottlenecking by allowing departments to weigh in with approval at any time, without waiting on other departments to approve first.
Facilitron also provides critical cost analysis insights and access to real-time data to provide the basis for a true understanding of cost recovery and revealing inefficiencies, policy exceptions, leakage and financial loss.
Advantages provided by the superior design of the digital platform combined with the partnership aspect of Facilitron’s support team—expertise of account managers working with district admins to recommend process and policy change and to help manage the day-to-day, and customer support team members assisting community members with questions, insurance and payments—highlight the difference between the Facilitron partnership and simply licensing software.
Before partnering with Facilitron, SAUSD—similar to the majority of districts nationwide—lacked the data, efficiency and manpower to effectively monitor, track and staff a facility use program. Because of this, the district was inadvertently leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table. Extensive unregulated community facility usage was the primary contributing factor to this revenue loss.
Unlike several other facilities management solutions, Facilitron’s team continues to work with districts on a day-to-day basis, assisting and supporting to help relieve the burden of routine but time-consuming admin tasks. Assistance is extended to district administrators, faculty and facility requesters to answer questions, provide ongoing training and share best practices.
“Our previous facilities software had minimal features and offered zero support. The Facilitron team makes it incredibly simple to utilize the platform effectively and achieve results,” Williams continued. “I’m not a big tech person, so if I can use it, anyone can. The ongoing staff support is huge for us because they help with everything.”
Adopting Facilitron’s system greatly reduced both stress levels and heavy workloads for the district’s facilities management staff. After just 8 months with Facilitron, SAUSD was able to catch up on the 600 backlogged requests and maintain no additional backlogged requests.
“Our team was routinely working until 8 or 9 p.m. because they were so overwhelmed with requests. With Facilitron, their schedules are normalized, productivity has risen and customer satisfaction is greatly improved,” said Williams.
Facilitron equips schools to accurately track key metrics including facilities utilization, cost of operation, approval and cancellation rates, community demand, cost versus recovery revenue for external use as well as how well schools are tracking against district policy rates. In addition, the solution helps districts uncover historical trends related to both school and non-school community renter organizations.
The platform also assists schools in streamlining processes when interacting with community organizations (e.g., non-profit status verifications) for faster, accurate and policy-compliant approvals. This aspect was a vital benefit for SAUSD, specifically, as they required better insight into trends associated with facility use by non-school community organizations. For many districts, it’s difficult to assess which groups qualify as non-profits (and thus pay lower fees) and which should be charged.
Through providing greater transparency and accessible data, the Facilitron platform alerted SAUSD district administrators that an organization that was leasing the district’s facilities for both a non-profit and commercial entity had been incorrectly using their tax-exempt, non-profit designation for both of its organizations. After Facilitron discovered the issue, the district was able to bill the commercial organization the difference in the non-profit and commercial rate backdated for two years. This allowed the district to recoup a staggering \$160,000 in revenue.
The recovered funding has been directed back into improving the quality and safety of school facilities. It has also helped the district open wellness centers where they sponsor student and community programs and education, including ESL courses, tax preparation support, parenting classes and more.
Santa Ana Unified School District is comprised of 56 schools, making it the seventh largest in California.