2011-10-12 / Front Page

Kids count for dollars

Enrollment falls in local schools

Kevin Miller Kevin Miller Projecting school enrollment months in advance isn’t easy.

Two local superintendents hit the numbers right on the button, when planning budgets for the 2011-12 fiscal year that began July 1.

The official Count Day for Michigan schools was Oct. 5. When the numbers are finalized next month, they will be worth 90 percent of the formula that determines state per pupil aid. The other 10 percent is the February count.

Croswell-Lexington Superintendent Dr. Kevin Miller and Peck school chief Ryle Kiser earned an A for their projections: Miller pegged enrollment correctly at 2,155, while Kiser hit the right number with 476.

Both districts lost students, along with the other five K-12 districts in Sanilac County, continuing the trend of families leaving the local area, and Michigan, in search of jobs.

“We’re down about 10 from the end of the year,” said Kiser. “Exactly. I projected it right for 476. The joke (around the school) is I should have projected for 520.

Kiser said the $68,000 the district will lose in state aid is “what we expected.”

Districts receive $6,846 per student in the State Foundation Grant..

“We hit it on the button...to the kid,” said Miller, regarding Cros-Lex enrollment of 2,155. “We wished we missed it by a few more than what we have.”

Miller said school officials used county birth rate figures from 2006-07 to calculate the size of the incoming kindergarten classes. He said birth rates in Michigan peaked in 2001 and have fallen since. Fueled by the “worst recession since the Great Depression, a lot of our young couples (of child-bearing age) fled our state in droves.”

Cros-Lex is down about 48 students for a loss of approximately $328,000.

In contrast to Cros-Lex and Peck, the Deckerville School District lost students, but not as many as was projected.

Superintendent Tricia Pawlowski reported enrollment is down seven from last fall in Deckerville, for a Count Day total of 626. But she based the 2011-12 budget on 612 students, so “the financial impact...will be approximately $68,000 more than we had in the budget,” she said.

Here’s how other districts fared:

Brown City - 922.5 students, down by 58. “We budgeted to be 46 down, we’re about eight students off,” said Superintendent Jerry Steigerwald.

Although that means close to $400,000 in less state aid, Steigerwald pointed out that the state changed the blended count formula from 75 percent for the September count and 25 percent for February, to 90-10, which will cost the district an additional $49,000 this year.

At Carsonville-Port Sanilac, the numbers are stable.

“We’re the same as last spring, we’re at 605,” said Superintendent Ann Binienda. “We were hoping to bring in a little more, trying to get 616. We’re down about 11 (from projections), about $75,000,” she said.

The district’s alternative education program, the Academy of Alternative Learns and the virtual school have helped enrollment, she noted.

Marlette’s student population is 1015.8, “which is 11 students off of what was budgeted for,” said Superintendent Jeriann Patterson, who returned from a month-long sick leave last week. The drop will cost the district approximately $75,000.

At Sandusky, the budget was built on a projected loss of 25 students. But last week’s unofficial head count showed an enrollment of 1,095, for a loss of 45.

“The resulting loss of revenue is approximately $308,070,” said Superintendent Mike Carmean. At 25, state aid would have been reduced by about $171,150.

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