Sequim schools’ enrollment figures fall short of budget

While Sequim School District is known for overcrowding at the elementary school level, it may be under-enrolled at higher grade levels in the district.

At the March 19 school board meeting, Steve McIntire, the district’s Interim Director of Finance and Operations, said the district is about 60 students under the budgeted enrollment numbers for the average of full-time equivalent students (FTEs) at the seventh-, 11th- and 12th-grade levels.

According to McIntire’s presentation, this could result in about $415,000 less in state-apportioned funds than what was budgeted for enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year.

“That’s a large amount of money for us,” Neal said. “Enrollment does dictate what our funding stream is going to look like.”

To put it in perspective, Neal said, that figure would be about the cost of the district’s annual maintenance budget.

Neal said the district is aware of this downward apportionment and administration is already having discussions about a plan if the district were to lose that much.

“It would be a long process to figure out what we’re going to do,” Neal said. “We want to be very intentional on what’s the best way to run a school district minus $400,000.”

McIntire said this number of students under the budgeted enrollment will result in a loss for the 2017-2018 school year.

Enrollment is calculated based on the amount of full-time equivalent students in “brick and mortar” that were budgeted for the 2017-2018 school year compared to the actual year-to-date average numbers counted for the 2017-2018 school year. (“Brick and mortar” refers to students in the regular education program as opposed to students in the Alternative Education program, McIntire said.)

A school district receives funding for each full-time student of about $7,000 for the year. A difference of about 60 FTE’s multiplied by $7,000 comes to a little more than $400,000.

The average for seventh grade is about 32.67 students under budget, juniors are 35 students under budget and seniors are 26.80 students under budget, states a February 2018 Sequim School District enrollment summary report.

The district’s average enrollment numbers in second, third and sixth grades are significantly over what was budgeted for the 2017-2018 school year, and bring the district’s total average to 60 students below budget.

McIntire said the district is doing all the right things in reporting enrollment numbers and doing everything the district needs to do, but it appears more students are leaving than coming back.

“We’ve got to figure out where these kids are going,” he said.

Neal said he believes the district’s loss in enrollment is districtwide and could be a result of the district’s decision last summer to no longer allow choice students — students that live outside Sequim School District boundaries —to attend Sequim Schools.

“We can’t take any more choice students,” Neal said. “I believe that has a large impact.”

Neal said each year the district would have about 30-40 choice students enrolled but because of the overcrowding at the elementary schools the district decided it could no longer take these students.

He also said the change in legislative funding is a factor when in January the state switched to payments based on actual FTE enrollment and on the actual reported certificated instructional staff.

The state apportionment that results from enrollment numbers provides school districts the money for services such as utilities, maintenance, custodial, grounds and central administration. McIntire said the majority of it is allocated for salary support for all types of staff members.

“The loss of apportionment could affect the number of staff hired for the 2018-2019 year, but the real effect comes from what the enrollment is forecast to be in the 2018-2019 year,” McIntire said.

“This reduction would be realized as less state apportionment support over the course of the 12-month fiscal year that runs from September 2017 through August 2018.”

McIntire said apportionment is paid on a percentage basis each month on a schedule set by the state. He said the percentage fluctuates monthly due to higher amounts that flow in during certain months, such as October and April when the property tax collections are at their highest.

McIntire added that for the first four months of the school year, the state pays based on a budget that was adopted by the school board for that academic year.

The district continues to report enrollment and other things that affect funding from September through December, but it has no immediate effect on how the state pays the district for those four months, he said.

In January, McIntire said, the state begins paying based on actual reported information and each month when that information is reported the state adjusts the amount due until their final payment in August.

Neal said if the school district does face a downward apportionment, administration would come up with a plan, present it to the school board and continue with public forums to address the problem.

The next school board meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Monday, April 16, at the district office, 503 N. Sequim Ave.