Evaluating the Costs of IPM in Schools
Preliminary indications from integrated pest management (IPM) programs in school systems suggest that long-term costs of IPM may be less than a conventional pest control program that relies solely on the use of pesticides. However, the long-term labor costs for IPM may be higher than those for conventional pesticide treatments. The labor costs may be offset by reduced expenditures for materials.
Whether an IPM program raises or lowers costs depends in part on the nature of the current housekeeping, maintenance and pest management operations. The costs of implementing an IPM program can also depend on whether the pest management services are contracted, performed in-house or both. To fit the IPM program into the existing budgetary framework, school administrators must consider what additional and redistributed expenditures are involved. As with any program, insufficient resources will jeopardize the success of IPM.
Initiating an IPM program may require repair and maintenance activities to prevent pest entry and to eliminate sources of shelter, food and moisture. Examples of these one-time expenses that may affect future costs include:
- Improving waste management by moving trash or garbage containers away from school buildings to reduce the opportunity for pest invasion.
- This is a one-time expense that will result in fewer pest problems and reduce the need for other pest control procedures.
- Installing physical barriers such as air curtains over the outside entrances to kitchens.
- This is also a onetime cost and results in fewer flying insect problems and a savings in years to come.
- Stepping up structural maintenance to correct such situations as leaky pipes.
- This effort reduces future maintenance problems, prevents pest problems and saves money in the long term.
- Training and/or certifying staff in IPM. The amount of information necessary to implement IPM is greater than that required for conventional pest control. As a consequence, training or certifying staff in IPM will probably cost more than current training.
- Re-landscaping the area adjacent to buildings to discourage pests.
In the long term, these repair and maintenance activities will reduce overall costs of the pest control operation, as well as other maintenance and operating budgets. Whether these costs are budgeted as a pest control expense or under some other category depends on the budgetary format of the school system. School systems with an active maintenance and repair program may be able to absorb these activities within the current budget.
Successful practice of IPM relies on accurate record keeping, which leads to more efficient procurement. As the IPM program progresses, predictable events and pest control needs will be identified. Close consultation with the pest management specialist is essential for good decisions on purchases within the budget.
Some non-pesticide products, such as traps, can be stocked to reduce purchases in future years, but few savings can be realized by purchasing pesticides in bulk. It is probably best to keep no more than a 60-day pesticide inventory to assure product freshness and to avoid limiting cash flow. Pest managers should be able to anticipate needs to fit a 60-day buying schedule.
IPM programs can be successfully implemented by "in-house" school employees or by contracting with a pest control company. A combination of in-house and contracted functions may be mixed and matched to the needs and capabilities of the school system. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Individual school systems must decide what is best for them given their unique circumstances. Whether you choose in-house or contracted services, pest management personnel should be trained to:
- Understand the principles of IPM.
- Identify pests and associated problems or damage.
- Monitor infestation levels and keep records.
- Understand cultural or alternative methods.
- Know recommended methods of judicious pesticide application.
- Know the hazards of pesticides and the safety precautions to be taken.
- Understand the pesticide label's precautionary statement(s) pertaining to exposure to humans or animals.
One of the most important tasks for an in-house program is training staff to function within an IPM context. Universities and State Cooperative Extension Service staff have the expertise to meet most IPM training needs. Training materials that are not already available can be developed jointly between the school district and the extension service.
Pest control firms should work with the pest manager and the responsible school official to solve pest control problems. Use of an outside pest control firm may increase costs but eliminate the need to hire and train personnel and store pesticides. The contract should specify the use of IPM principles and practices in meeting pest management objectives.
When choosing a pest control firm, contact your local Better Business Bureau or state regulatory agencies for information about whether they have received complaints about a pest control company. State regulatory agencies can also provide information on pesticide applicator certification.
The pest management services contract should include:
- IPM specifications.
- Statements of expected results.
- Pest management objectives specific to the site.
- These should be developed by the appropriate parties, agreed upon and written into the contract.
- Information about any special health concerns (such as those for children, or for individuals with allergies, etc.) that affect the pesticides that can be used or excluded from use.