The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 16, 2020 1:00 am

Enrollment dip won't hurt funds: SACS

Expects per-student raise to offset

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

A slight decrease in students this fall shouldn't hurt Southwest Allen County School's 2021 budget, an official told the board Tuesday.

The district – which had about 7,700 students last academic year – is down about 45 students from fall 2019, but the official fall enrollment count isn't until Friday.

Other districts, including Fort Wayne Community Schools, also are experiencing lower enrollments. As of Monday, FWCS had almost 1,000 fewer students compared with last year.

The count determines the amount of per-student tuition support Indiana schools receive to pay for items including teacher salaries and instructional materials.

A 2.8% increase in state funding per student should negate Southwest Allen's anticipated enrollment losses, Business Manager Mark Snyder said. That's about $155 more per pupil.

Snyder shared SACS' enrollment details during a review of the 2021 budget that focused on the education and operations funds. He promised to share details about proposed levies and tax rates at the Oct. 13 public hearing.

Budget adoption is set for Oct. 27.

SACS' proposal reflects additional staff – including an additional assistant principal, counselor and teacher – as well as potential salary and health insurance increases, Snyder said. He also budgeted more for substitutes considering COVID-19 and its potential effect on staff, he said.

SACS is proposing almost $47 million in the education fund, up 3.86% from 2020, Snyder said.

About 97% of this budget is salaries and benefits, he said, adding it also supports professional development and consumable supplies.

“This is really tied to the classroom,” Snyder said.

About $20.8 million is proposed for the operations fund, an increase of 7.73%, he said.

He acknowledged that the bump of almost $1.5 million is a significant hike.

“I tried to get that number down,” Snyder said. “It started out to be quite a bit higher than that, but with COVID and supplies and just general unknowns, I didn't feel I could go much lower than that.”

For instance, the operations fund includes about 22% more for legal services, for which $141,000 is budgeted.

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted more district conversations with legal counsel, Snyder said.

“Hoping to not spend it,” he said, “but it tends to be well spent money, usually.”

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