September 2, 2014

All three county schools show loss on count day

Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

ARENAC COUNTY — As sources for school funding dwindle it is critical that a school district keeps as many students as possible to capitalize on the State of Michigan’s per pupil allowance.

Unfortunately, in Arenac County, the amount of enrolled students dropped in all three school districts, as tallies from a Sept. 24, count day showed.

“We’re down to 400 from 450 last year,” said AuGres-Sims School District (AGS) Superintendent Gary Marchel.

With the state’s per pupil allowance at $7,316 per student, AGS is looking at a $365,800 loss of revenue.

The 50-student drop took Marchel and others at the district by surprise.

“We knew we were going to lose 17 (students) without any moves or anything like that,” he said.

Marchel added the district did budget for a decline, but its expectations were surpassed. Even though he says the district’s blended count, which gives the option to blend 25 percent of a February 2008 count day with 75 percent of a September 2007 count rather than taking the latest count, would show the district with an enrollment of 430 students, the amount will still be lower than what administrators at AGS budgeted for. However the revenue lost would be $146,320 rather than the aforementioned $365,800.

“We’ll have to make some adaptations,” Marchel said, adding one of which may be opting to not replace former principal Pamela Morris. “It means we may not be able to hire a principal.”

But Marchel is not alone.

The Arenac Eastern School District (AE) lost 13 students, landing the district at 285 students. However according to AE Superintendent Rocky Aldrich, AE isn’t taken aback.

“I budgeted right at 285 (students), so I actually came right on the money,” Aldrich said. “That’s a loss of about $95,000 ($95,108 – actual amount) but the blended count will be less.”

AE’s blended count is currently still being determined.

But even though the district was prepared for the loss, Aldrich says everyone in the district is playing it safe when it comes to funds.

“We’re very tight with our budget,” he said.

And just like AGS and AE, Standish-Sterling Community Schools District (S-S) also took an attendance hit.

S-S Superintendent Michael Dodge says the district is showing 21 less students than it did last September, dropping the district’s enrollment to 1,802 students.

“We actually thought we were going to be about the same as last year,” Dodge said.

And unfortunately for S-S, the budget was prepared with enrollment numbers flat from last year, meaning the $153,636 loss of revenue was never projected in this year’s budget.

Dodge says some future budget decision will be hinging on the next count day in February.

“If we have the same amount of kids in the February count then we’re in trouble,” he said. Dodge added the low student count could result in cuts, redistribution or withdrawal from the district’s fund balance, which he says is sitting around $5 million.

But he also says he is cautious about taking money from fund balance due to the grim outlook of next year when a large graduating class departs and is replaced by what is appearing to be a small class of kindergarteners

“Next year we’ll probably be down 75 to 100 kids,” Dodge said.

The blended count number at S-S was not determined as of press time.

All results are unofficial.

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