Final count student numbers up slightly in Grand County
Ryan Summerlin November 23, 2012
Student numbers in the area’s schools are improving, according to the latest student enrollment counts at both East and West Grand School Districts.At East Grand Schools, the dismal outlook of the Oct. 1 student count has since improved by 22 students. Although the increase in students does not increase funding to the school, according to East Grand Schools Superintendent Nancy Karas, it “may be a sign that jobs are starting to appear in our county,” she said. The same could be said at West Grand Schools, where school officials there saw an enrollment increase of 11 students since Oct. 1.But the increase in students does not mean more money from the state to either district.East GrandAn increase in student numbers since Oct. 1 is tempered by the sober reality that the East Grand School District has seen funded student counts drop over the past five years, from 1,464 students in 2008 to 1,245 students in 2013. “East Grand School District has seen an average of 4 percent per-year drop in funded student count and a decrease in per-pupil funding of over $700 per student during this same period of the recession,” Karas said. “It is my hope that Grand County’s economy will improve to a level that provides opportunity for families to live and play in our county, bringing children back into the high-quality classrooms we have to offer.”The loss of more than 200 students over the past five years reflects an estimated loss to the district of about $1.4 million. In spite of East Grand School District’s lower Oct. 1 counts, the district may nearly meet this year’s budget, according to Karas, but only with the saving grace of the state’s five-year averaging of enrollment. The averaging will help to backfill lost revenue due to declining enrollment.”I’m very thankful for the five-year student enrollment average that will allow East Grand to stay on track this fiscal year,” she said.The Oct. 1 count showed the district was down by 28 students from last year, but averaging can “ease the impact of lost funding,” Karas said. Even though the Oct. 1 student count was 1,245 students, the district anticipates being funded for 1,266 students, on a district budget built for 1,271 students. “The board of education will review current spending patterns and adjust the projected revenue as they approve a revised budget by Jan. 31, as required by law,” Karas said. This year’s East Grand district budget currently reflects deficit spending of $454,271.West GrandAt West Grand School District, the Oct. 1 count reflected the district up by 7 students over last year, and 27 more students than what was budgeted. But because of the drop in assessed valuation, the district projects a loss of $139,906 in property-tax revenue. And the district will not see an increase in funding through the Public School Finance Act due to a technicality called the “Negative Factor” in the state’s school finance formula, according to school officials. Therefore, the district faces a budget shortfall of $139,906. “It’s the first time in a while we’ll have to spend down reserves,” said district administrator Martha Schake. District general-fund unrestricted reserves are at $1.84 million, with another $157,000 in restricted reserves due to Colorado’s Tabor amendment.The district is conducting a work session on Dec. 4, with a board meeting on Dec. 11, to discuss the district’s budget shortfall. The district anticipates resolving its budget by its Jan. 10 meeting.