CCSD facing enrollment decline
Like the Central Oregon region as a whole, the Crook County School District enrollment numbers are down, which is causing the district to rethink how they budget for next year.
"It's really strange to have a community that's growing and not growing your student population," said Board Chair Doug Smith. "And that's pretty much true for every high school in Central Oregon."
CCSD Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan said, however, that the district is operating well within its means.
"While a reduction in revenue is never welcome, the size of reduction we expect to budget for would not require cuts to programs," she said.
Logan pointed out that from 2015-16 to 2016-17, the district experienced a 4 percent increase in regular enrollment. "Regular" means not including any special programs or charter.
"The majority of that increase was at the elementary level, leading us to believe we should expect a consistent increase the following year," Logan said. "Therefore, we budgeted a similar enrollment increase for 2017-18. In reality, the enrollment has returned to approximately the same as the 2015-16 level."
In January, 2,652 regular students were enrolled, compared to 2,731 in January 2017 — a decrease in 79 students.
As of the end of January, enrollment is 6 percent below budget for the 2017-18 school year, Logan said, and it is 2 percent below the prior year at the same time.
"Even if enrollment decreases, the enrollment calculation used for the state school fund revenue is held at the higher of the current year or the previous year," she explained.
This means that the state school fund revenue will not be as high as budgeted, but it will not drop the full 5 percent it would have if it was based solely on current numbers. Instead, it is currently projected to be approximately 1 percent under budget, or $18.9 million.
The budget for next year will likely be built with the assumption that enrollment will stay the same as this year, which is lower than what was budgeted for this year. As a result, the budgeted state school fund revenue for next year will be lower than the budget for the current year.
Even though revenue will likely be lower next year, the district has experienced significant savings on its expenditures, she pointed out. Desired additions have been compiled into a district "wish list" should more funds become available. The items were added based on board goals, district initiatives, and student needs observed by administrators.
At $150,000, the largest item on this list is creating a director of school improvement position.
This position differs from Stacy Smith's director of curriculum and special program's role.
"The curriculum director has responsibilities which involve selecting curriculum, implementing curriculum, providing the training to implement the curriculum, and testing to see how the curriculum is performing," Doug Smith explained. "But no one has been digging into the data."
The director of school improvement would dig into those numbers and work with the administrators in the individual schools as well as the student subgroups to improve student performance.
Other wish list items include counselors at the elementary level, Pioneer Alternative High School, and at the middle school. They'd also like to add a dean of students at the high school and a middle school health teacher. Each position would come with a $65,000 annual price tag.
Smaller wish list items include additional staff training and extra duty contracts for after-school clubs.
The impact of enrollment numbers will become clearer as it is tracked over the next few months and will be reported in the budget document when the budget committee begins meeting May 1.
"We will continue to monitor enrollment numbers for February and March before doing a firm revenue calculation for the budget," Logan said.
Despite the changes, the board chair reaffirmed that the district is in a sound financial state.
"We are going to feel some pain, but the sky is not falling," Smith said.