Audit Shows Opportunity to Eliminate Outside-the-Classroom Spending at Columbus Municipal School District

April 22, 2021

Auditor partners with school district, data analytics firm to show how district could spend more inside the classroom

JACKSON, Miss. – The Columbus Municipal School District (CMSD) could implement improvements to save up to $3.2 million of annual outside-the-classroom spending. This finding comes from a report released by State Auditor Shad White’s office this week. The school system partnered with the Auditor’s office to review expenditure data and identify ineffective spending.

“I want to thank the superintendent and board of education in Columbus for stepping up and looking for ways to eliminate ineffective spending and shift that money to the classroom where it matters most,” said Auditor White. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to partner with them to complete this project.”

The Mississippi Office of the State Auditor also partnered with the advanced data analytics firm GlimpseK12 for this performance audit.

GlimpseK12 used data provided by the school district to measure CMSD expenditures against school districts from across the region and country. Highlights from the report include:

  • Data showed certain education software programs are underutilized by CMSD students and teachers. The report suggests the school district work to improve the usage rate of the programs or eliminate the software licenses – a savings of up to $100,000 annually.
  • The school district has recently moved to save money by bringing bus operations in-house after previously outsourcing its transportation services. However, transportation costs are still higher for CMSD than those for similar school districts in the Southeast. By bringing transportation costs in line with the regional average, CMSD could save over $700,000 per year.
  • Analysis also showed maintenance costs per square foot and per student are higher for CMSD than other similar school districts in the region. The district could realize annual savings of nearly $1 million by implementing things like an automated work order system, preventative maintenance schedules, and outsourcing for certain tasks.
  • The district follows state purchasing laws but – like many other school districts – does not employ a district-wide purchasing officer. By implementing a centralized purchasing department to manage competitive bids, the analytics firm suggested CMSD could save up to 20% on goods currently purchased by its individual schools.

The Columbus Municipal School District welcomed the opportunity to have a detailed review of our fiscal performance,” Labat said, “The Glimpse audit allowed us to evaluate decision making, personnel, programming, and resources with more fidelity.  Spending well and wisely is important as we work to improve student outcomes.  While student achievement remains our primary goal, it is a moral imperative that we use funds to repair and maintain facilities.  The audit is written in a manner that will be understood by stakeholders and provides graphics with valuable comparisons to other districts.  The audit will be an asset to us as we work through a new budget cycle.

“As the child of a public school teacher, I jumped at the opportunity for my office to partner with a school district to make an impact in the classroom,” White said, “and I’ll continue to look for ways to make sure Mississippi’s children have access to the best education possible.”

This performance audit is the second of three district-level audits announced by Auditor White in June 2020. Previous reports from the Auditor’s office on outside-the-classroom spending showed ballooning outside-the-classroom spending around the state, a look at how Mississippi’s outside-the-classroom spending compares to other states, and a study of the priority given to administrative pay raises.

This new performance audit report can be found online at the Auditor’s website.