‘Conservative’ enrollment projection from last fall hasn’t held up

    Enrollment woes in Crookston Public Schools aren’t easing, with the School Board on Monday approving an updated budget for the current school year that reflects a drop of 56 students (known by the state as ADMs or Average Daily Membership) since the 2016-17 budget was approved last June. With state funding calculated at approximately $7,465 per student/ADM, that’s a revenue drop of around $418,000 in the current budget.

    It’s times like these that the district’s healthy unreserved fund balance is especially beneficial, Business Manager Laura Lyczewski said. Asked how the six-figure revenue hit specifically and immediately impacts the budget, she told the Times Tuesday that the unreserved fund balance will help compensate for the $418,000 in revenue that was initially factored in the budget, and school board members for the rest of the budget year will be aware that the current budget is not balanced.

    “We thought we were being conservative (in approving the budget last summer based on an ADM projection of 1,249), but it turns out we were way off on student enrollment,” School Board Chair Frank Fee said Monday. “This is a sizable hit to our budget, to say the least.”

    As of Monday, the ADM stood at 1,195. The updated budget approved by the board factors in an ADM of 1,193.

    Board members, Lyczewski and Superintendent Chris Bates always monitor enrollment closely, but they’ve been keeping an especially close eye on it as this school year has progressed, when it started to become apparent in the fall that the 1,249 ADM projection wasn’t holding true. While the local school district is seen as having a high student mobility rate, with students coming and going throughout the school year for various reasons, board members and administrators are also constantly concerned about a major net loss of students to Fisher and other area school districts through open enrollment, and are currently trying to strategize on how to slow the negative trend.

    As for the current major drop in enrollment, asked by board member Dave Davidson if anyone knows where the students have gone, Bates said that at the weekly meeting of the administrative team on Tuesday (today), principals will be asked to tabulate as best as they can where students in their specific school buildings have gone.

    “If a family has moved to North Carolina, there’s no real point in calling them,” Bates said. “But if they’re close enough to Crookston where Crookston is still an educational option for them, we should be able to start tabulating what’s happening.”

    Efforts over the past few years to rebuild a flimsy unreserved fund balance and current efforts to maintain it were mentioned Monday as being especially beneficial in times like these.

    “The one good thing is that we’re in fairly good financial health, whether or not you want to talk about our ability to absorb something like this,” Fee said.

    “The present board has gone a pretty good job of keeping a reserve to deal with this and not be in panic mode,” Bates added. “But we weren’t anticipating something like this. I’d say we’re in guarded mode right now.”

Grants, donations accepted by board

   The Crookston School Board on Monday gladly accepted a trio of grants/donations.

   They are:

   • The latest allocation from the June Shaver Scholarship Fund in the amount of $8,400 for athletic and academic scholarships for female students

   • A $2,000 anonymous donation to go toward the purchase of new uniforms for the Marching Band Shield Carriers to match the new band uniforms

   • $300 from Roger and Gail Odegaard for the Music Program