Strategic Staffing: Part 3—Auxiliary Staff

March 12, 2021 • Zachary Hobbs

Strategic Staffing: Part 3—Auxiliary Staff

The third part of our strategic staffing series focuses on auxiliary staff who support child nutrition, custodial, maintenance, and transportation services in a school district.

Staffing resources 

There are a variety of resources available to assist with an analysis of auxiliary staffing allocations. A comparison of staffing allocations to peer districts is available using the PEIMS Staff FTE Counts and Salary Report and TASB HRDataSource™, as referenced in both Strategic Staffing: Part 1 and Strategic Staffing: Part 2—Teachers. Additional guidance for identifying peer district benchmarking is covered in Strategic Staffing: Part 1.

The PEIMS Staff FTE Counts and Salary Report includes an auxiliary section with staff counts by the PEIMS role identification number. The report criteria provides a list of the PEIMS role identification numbers and positions included in the report. Some professional positions supporting auxiliary departments can be found in the support staff section of the report. Other sources of data include:

Child nutrition services

Tracking MPLH can assist with measuring the financial success of the child nutrition program, monitoring the labor efficiency of the department, determining appropriate staffing levels, and guiding operational change.

MPLH are calculated based on number of meal equivalents (MEQ) and actual productive, paid labor hours (number of MEQs/number of labor hours).

MEQ is the conversion of different meals (i.e., breakfast, lunch, and snacks) and non-program food sales (à la carte items) to the equivalent of one federally reimbursable student lunch. A federally reimbursable student lunch is the standard unit of measurement. The following MEQ values are used in the calculation:

  • Lunch = 1 MEQ
  • Breakfast = 0.67 MEQ
  • Snack = 0.33 MEQ
  • Non-program food sales / free lunch reimbursement rate + current USDA foods value = 1 MEQ

The nationwide target ranges for MPLH in public schools is 22 for elementary schools, 20 for junior high and middle schools, and 18 for high schools. Establishing a three-point range using these targets is common practice. For example, the desired range for elementary campuses would be 21 to 23 MPLH.

The staffing efficiency of a campus can be analyzed by dividing the MPLH of the campus by the target MPLH for the campus level. For example, a high school campus with a MPLH equal to 16 has a staffing efficiency of 89 percent (16/18 = .89).

Districts should develop a staffing efficiency goal and work towards achieving this goal at each campus. The type of meal preparation (conventional heat and serve versus scratch cooking) may impact the identified goal. Increasing the staffing efficiency on a campus can be accomplished by increasing participation in the food program or adjusting staffing levels by reducing labor hours.

Custodial services

The APPA standards for custodial staffing provide a guideline of full-time equivalents (FTEs) needed based on five appearance levels, 22 standard spaces, and cleanable square feet (CSF) maintained. These standards do not consider other variables such as the age and condition of buildings, equipment available, duty schedules, non-maintenance duties assigned to staff, etc. The level of cleaning desired and type of standard space maintained require a different amount of cleaning effort and staffing levels.

The standard for appearance level 2 (ordinary tidiness) and the average staffing levels for all standard spaces is one custodian per 19,000 CSF. A district may choose to adjust this standard based on desired appearance level and/or the type of space being cleaned.

Maintenance and grounds

The APPA standards for maintenance staff provide a guideline of FTEs needed based on gross square footage (GSF) and acres maintained. These standards do not consider other variables such as the age and condition of buildings, equipment available, duty schedules, type of maintenance plan in place (general versus preventive), non-maintenance duties assigned to staff, etc. Below is a table of the APPA standards per GSF for maintenance and grounds staff.

AAPA Standards

A review of funds spent on contracted services also can provide input on adjustment to staffing levels. For example, the addition of an HVAC technician may reduce funds historically spent on HVAC maintenance and repair.


Transportation staffing may be impacted by the number of bus drivers and monitors employed, the size of the yellow fleet and white fleet, ridership, and miles traveled. Some peer comparisons may be made using the resources mentioned above. While services may vary from district to district, an analysis of the square miles of the district can help justify staffing levels. Typically, greater land mass means more routes.

Comparing mechanics to number of drivers is another option to analyze district staffing to peer districts. This option provides a further breakdown of the data and can result in additional information to inform transportation department staffing. As an example, if peer districts average 90 drivers and three mechanics, the benchmark would be one mechanic per 30 drivers (90/3 = 30). If your district staffs four mechanics for 90 drivers, the district would be staffed above the benchmark at 22.5 drivers per mechanic (90/4 = 22.5).

Moving forward

An analysis of current auxiliary staffing allocations can help determine if inefficiencies exist. Developing and applying staffing standards based on peer comparisons and association guidelines can help the district with planning and implementation of an efficient and effective staffing model for each auxiliary department.

Additional resources also are available through TASB Facility Services.

Zachary Hobbs is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send Zach an email at

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Tagged: HR, Staffing