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Mon, Jan. 27

Enrollment decline will reduce school district budgets

Prescott tri-city area school district officials do not know how deep the cuts will go as the state tries to balance its budget, but they are anticipating reductions in the money they receive for educational purposes.

Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Dave Smucker said that during a Jan. 26 Yavapai County superintendents' meeting, Chuck Essings from the Arizona Association of School Business Officials advised districts to prepare for a 10 percent budget cut.

"We will plan for the worst and hope for the best," Smucker noted.

While state cuts are unknown, district officials are trying to deal with know factors - such as declining student enrollment.

School districts receive money from the state based on average daily membership (ADM) on the 100th day of school - Jan. 25. ADM represents the number of students enrolled in school, not attendance numbers. School districts will receive money for the 2011-12 school year based on the ADM.

Starting with the 2012-13 school year, the state will no longer use ADM to determine school funding. Instead, it will use attendance numbers from four days of the previous school year.

This year, however, ADM is still the deciding factor, and it is not looking good for local districts.

The 100-day student counts are early numbers. School districts and the Department of Education must reconcile the ADMs.

Each school district uses a base amount to determine how much money they will receive - or lose - per student.

Humboldt Unified School District uses a base amount of $4,000 per student. Prescott and Chino Valley uses a base amount of $5,000 per student

HUSD Human Resources Director Phil Young said that early numbers indicate a decrease in enrollment of 124 students. HUSD's enrollment for the 2009-10 school year was 5,849 students. The early enrollment numbers for the 2010-11 school year is 5,725 students.

Young noted that the enrollment numbers have fluctuated between decreases of 115 to 140 students.

What this means for HUSD is an almost $500,000 base amount per student decrease in state aid.

Young explained there is another variable in state aid - B-weight funding. This is additional per-student money the district receives for special needs students.

"The actual ADM hit, with the B-weight in play, appears to be favorable. Instead of being down $500,000, the decrease may end up closer to $350,000 to $400,000. That is better than earlier projections," Young noted.

Young said the reduction in state aid because of decreased enrollment will affect the district budget "before anything else happens. We know we are looking at extra health benefit costs and increases to contributions to the state retirement system."

According to Young, the district is "actively working to determine budget adjustments."

He indicated that during the next few weeks, district officials would reach out to the district administrative team and staff members for ideas of how to reduce costs.

PUSD's decrease of 205 students translates into a $1 million hit to the 2011-12 budget.

According to Renee Raskin, chief financial officer, the early enrollment figures for all PUSD schools decreased from 5,235 students in 2009-10 to 5,030 for 2010-11.

Like HUSD, PUSD is looking at increases in health benefit costs and increases to the state retirement system.

All of this will happen before any of the districts know what the state will do.

"We keep hearing that the Legislature will make a decision early," Smucker said.

Regardless, PUSD is looking at a total budget cut of about $1.6 million, and everything is on the table.

"Our focus is on how we will make decisions, how we continue programs for kids and how we do our best for kids so that when they leave PUSD they are prepared to meet their dreams," Smucker said. "We are doing a lot of work with the district leadership team and the governing board. But a lot of things depend on what the state does."

Smucker indicated that whatever the district does, "it will have an impact on the children in this community. We have to look at where our labels come from, core classes and professional development."

According to Smucker, the good side of the budget dilemma is that the district has to take a hard look at what it is doing.

"The hard part is that we have to look at things and ask if we can afford them," Smucker stated.

The situation in the Chino Valley Unified School District is a little different - but only because of the date of the 100th day of school. Since CVUSD went to a four-day school week, its 100th day is later that other local districts.

Superintendent Duane Noggle reported that CVUSD's 100th day is March 2. Noggle anticipates the ADM will be down about 170 students.

"That is a huge impact. We anticipate a $850,000 hit even without any other budget cuts," Noggle said.

The CVUSD superintendent indicated that the district would consider any staff or program reductions "based on our staffing model."

School districts are submitting their 100-day ADM reports to the Department of Education for reconciliation. Reports of ADM for other districts around the state are not yet available.

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