Without legislative help, enrollment drop will force cuts

Enrollment at USD 410 is mirroring a statewide decline, potentially causing the district to feel the squeeze financially.

Enrollment is projected to drop by about 10 students next year, according to Gordon Mohn, USD 410 superintendent. This drop follows a trend that has developed over the past three years.

The school year of 1997-1998 boasted 794 students. However, during the current school year, only 746 students were enrolled, a drop of 48 students.

“For three years, we’ve lost about 10 students each year,” Mohn said.

The future is projected to follow a similar decline.

“We’ll probably see some decline; it depends on what happens locally with business,” Mohn said.

This enrollment decline carries a financial impact. In the public school system, government funding is based on enrollment.

A current base budget of $3,820 is provided per student. If the number of students drops, the budget will consequently drop as well. If the continues loses 10 students next year, this would mean a loss of $38,200.

But the future is not bleak, Mohn said. The Kansas legislature is considering increasing the per-student base budget and offset the declining number of students.

A state education task sorce has recommended to the legislature recommending that the base budget be increased by $180, raising the total to $4,000 per student.

According to the task force’s report, this increase stems from a commitment by the state “to annually increase the base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) to adequately compensate for inflation.” But what the legislature will do with this recommendation is still unknown, according to observers.

“If the legislature doesn’t do anything with the base budget, then eventually we’ll have to make some more drastic cuts,” Mohn said. “Right now, we’re just waiting to see what the legislature does.”

If the decline continues without an increase in the budget base, changes will need to be made. Future salary increases could be affected, as could programs within the district. And, according to Mohn, after program cuts only two years ago, these new changes could be more painful for the district.

The USD 410 decline is a small drop in the bucket of the statewide enrollment decline. Two-thirds of school districts across Kansas are facing the same issue, according to Mohn.

“We don’t have nearly the problem that a lot of the schools in Kansas have,” he said. “Some districts in Kansas have lost about 25 percent of their students.”

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