Declining enrollment numbers have East Allen County Schools officials concerned that next years budget could be a tight squeeze.
The school board Tuesday heard a presentation explaining that the district plans to budget more than $85 million in the coming year to support seven funds.
Those funds include the districts general fund at more than $60 million, as well as the debt services fund, school pension debt, capital projects, art institute transportation and bus replacement.
Student enrollment numbers and assessed valuation must be estimated for the 2014 budget, and the districts advertised budget will be about $1 million more than this years budget, Business Manager Kirby Stahly said.
Funding from the state is based on enrollment.
Last year, the district advertised a budget of $84 million, about $4 million less than the 2011-12 school year.
Stahly said he is always careful to give conservative estimates as the board reviews spending plans for the coming year.
Once the board has submitted a budget, it cannot increase the amount requested but can make cuts, he said.
For the district, well have to look very closely at the general fund this next year, and its predominantly based on what our enrollment numbers are, which makes it a little bit difficult to go through and see where we can make some cuts, Stahly said.
But well have to go through and look at what cuts we can make and still provide services for our students.
The district has seen declines in enrollment the last few years that has led to problems keeping up with the growing costs of building maintenance and bus replacement costs, among other concerns, Stahly said.
In one year, from the 2010-11 school year to the 2011-12 school year, the district lost 588 students, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.
From the 2011-12 school year to the 2012-13 school year, the district lost 212 students, the data showed.
If that trend continues, Stahly said, the district anticipates losing 154 students this year.
Will we have significant challenges with the general fund? Yes. If we dont make any changes or restructuring of anything, does it appear we will have a deficit? Yes, Stahly said.
The worst-case scenario could leave the district with a deficit of about $1.8 million, he said.
If we have loss of enrollment much greater than we believe we do now and our expenditure profile increases much more than we think it is going to be, we might have a problem, Stahly said.
But with some creative strategies for saving money, the board should be able to avoid a deficit.
Board members plan to meet in the next two weeks to discuss what cuts will be made before the budget is scheduled for a public hearing Sept. 17.
The budget is scheduled to be adopted during the Oct. 15 school board meeting.
The East Allen transportation fund – about $6.6 million – also faces some challenges.
The district has had to add new route drivers, and the cost of fuel has affected the fund in recent years, Stahly said.
The district had hoped to replace about 24 buses, but budget constraints will allow for only 12 or 13 to be replaced.
Board members said Tuesday they didnt expect to see enrollment grow until the district makes significant strides in academics to help bring in students.
I see positive things that are changing and happening in our district, school board Vice President Chris Baker said.
I know this is going to take time, yes, but we have new goals and new initiatives and were doing something right here, weve just got to sell it.