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Dropping enrollments adding to county school district’s financial challenges

The Nelson County Board of Education met for a working session on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2017.

 

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2017 — The Nelson County Schools are going to face some substantial financial challenges if predicted enrollment trends continue and lead to reductions in state funding for the district.

TIM HOCKENSMITH

Tim Hockensmith, the district’s chief operating officer, provided the Nelson County board of education with an assessment of how decreasing district enrollment will translate directly into decreases in the funding as part of a discussion of the district’s draft budget.

“Attendance is the most critical piece that will affect our district’s future finances,” he said. “Those figures are important because they are a direct driver of our state funding.”

A district’s SEEK funding is determined by multiplying the per-pupil funding by the district’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA). A drop in the attendance figures translates directly into less SEEK funding.

The drop in the 2016-17 ADA by 85 students led to a drop of more than $900,000 the district received in SEEK funds this school year. If the district doesn’t see some growth before the end of this school year, the loss of SEEK money could be even greater next year, Hockensmith said.

ENROLLMENT TRENDS. The chart Hockensmith reviewed with the board told the tale.

Beginning in 2000, the district’s Average Daily Attendance showed mostly positive growth, peaking at 4,401 students in 2008. After that, the attendance began to drop — small but steady decreases each year (with the exception of 2016).

The Nelson County Schools average daily attendance charted from 1997 to 2017. The trending lower attendance numbers may translate into lower state funding levels next school year.

From its peak in 2008, the average daily attendance at the end of the 2017 school year was 4,091 students — a nine-year attendance drop of more than 7 percent. While the end-of-year attendance figures for the current school year aren’t known, Hockensmith said attendance in September 2017 was down about 150 students from the same month a year earlier.

The per-student SEEK funding figures have varied over the years. But it isn’t the SEEK formula that’s going to cause the financial heartburn — its the dropping attendance.

DAMON JACKEY

“If we end this year without additional growth, you’re looking at an estimate of $1.3 million loss in revenue to the district next year,” he said.

The Kentucky Retirement System is also requiring the school district to increase its contributions to the CERS retirement system to the tune of about $500,00 next year, he said.

“We have challenging times ahead,” he said. “The staff is working now on cutting everything that isn’t nailed down.”

STAFFING ALLOCATIONS. Hockensmith said the district’s staffing formulas will be the same as last year — but what’s expected to change are the enrollment numbers. With those predictions showing even fewer students at some schools next year, Hockensmith said he has been meeting with school principals now so they can determine how they may need to deal with the possibility of reduced funding for staff.

MEDICAID BILLING. The board heard that a contract is being written with the Lincoln Trail Health Department to allow them to handle Medicaid billing for the district’s nursing staff.

The intent is for the Medicaid revenue earned to help offset the cost of adding the additional nurses in the district. The nurses will be district employees.

The board is expected to have an opportunity to approve the contract at its Jan. 16 meeting.

In other business:

— the board elected Damon Jackey as board chair for calendar 2018. Board members Diane Berry was elected vice chair.

— the board corrected a error on its board meeting calendar. Damon Jackey also restated concerns about eliminated some of the board’s working sessions. The board voted 3-1 on the calendar changes with Jackey casting the single vote against the calendar.

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