Enrollment at St. Paul Education Regional Division (SPERD) schools is down 130 students from the projected spring numbers. It may seem like a small number, but it actually accounts to roughly $1 million in funding. Board Chair Heather Starosielski says although adjusting on the board level will be needed, the decrease will not have a negative effect on the students.
“The projection numbers we do in the spring, we base our budget off of that for the upcoming school year,” Starosielski explains the numbers are expected to change some, though not as much as they had, “what happens on September 30th, when we actually have students in the building, in the desks, that’s when the official count is done. That’s what our grants are based off of for the year.”
Being off 130 students means the board will have to re-prioritize how they are spending money, explains Starosielski, “we’re working with less money than we anticipated or planned for. The board has done a few different things to make up the shortfall. First of all, there’s a hiring freeze, any new hires will have to be approved through our central office, as opposed to on site.”
Secondly, the board will use savings to help them through the year, says Starosielski, “we will be taking over $600,000 out of our reserves. [SPERD] has a bit of a healthy reserve, so we decided to take into there this year, so we don’t have to cut programming in the classrooms.”
Thirdly, Starosielski explains there will be some cuts other areas, “collaborate PD money that we had set aside, we didn’t take it away but reduced it by 50 percent.”
“For the students, you should see zero impact, we aren’t affecting in the classroom by offsetting reserve money and some other areas where we can find some efficiencies,” states Starosielski the board feels confident about the 2015-16 school year, however if the trend continues there may be larger issues. “We are a little bit concerned if this trend should continue in a follow-up year, then we’re definitely going to be looking at where we can be cutting more, that could be programming, employees, or so on. I’m more concerned for the future, than I am for this year.”
The is no clear reason why enrollment numbers are lower than expected, however Starsielski believes it has some to do with towns’ who were more impacted by the downturn in the economy than others. “We definitely saw a reduction in numbers in some very specific schools where they are more tied to the economy,” Elk Point was one of the communities that saw a significantly lower number of students, it is also a community that has a large oil and energy industry. “We haven’t seen that [for Elk Point] in the past,” Starielski says there was also lower than expected numbers at the Two Hill Mennonite School, “a bit more of a transient community, as well, where people go where the jobs are.”