While making projections for the 2017 budget earlier this summer, Brownstown Central Community School Corp. business manager Harry Rochner estimated this fall’s student count to be at 1,677.
That was based on the average daily membership increasing from 1,594 in September 2013 to 1,671 in September 2015.
School officials anticipated the ADM to stay around the 1,671 level, and budget decisions for 2017 were based on that count.
But when the number of students in kindergarten through 12th grade recently was announced, the corporation only had 1,580 students — a loss of 91 students.
One reason for the drop was 139 students graduated in the spring and only 103 enrolled in kindergarten. Plus, 23 students moved out of state, 23 chose to be home-schooled and 59 moved to Columbus, North Vernon and Seymour. The moves appear to be mostly related to job opportunities for families, school officials said.
Since the ADM drives the general fund, Rochner was concerned his estimate of $10,861,021 was too high. The corporation’s general fund for this year is $10,512,154. It receives $5,672 per student, and that amount can fluctuate based on the ADM increasing or decreasing.
A big part of the general fund is used to pay staff and provide programming for students.
During the summer, as enrollment began to drop, action was taken to reduce cost for the 2017 budget, Rochner said. An opening for a teacher was not filled, and other areas are being evaluated for budget cuts.
Fortunately, Rochner said the corporation has a balance in the rainy day fund for these situations that allows time to make necessary adjustments to balance the budget.
“We have seen many challenges over the past several years when it comes to funding the general fund,” Rochner said. “The basic grant formula changes, and ADM fluctuates, but the quality of education has not changed. Our programs we offer have increased during these times, and the corporation looks forward to the future.”
Rochner said this situation isn’t really unique for small rural schools.
“There are a lot of schools faced with this situation in much (more) dire straits than we are,” he said.
It will require Jade Peters, who will take over as business manager once Rochner retires Oct. 31, to carefully follow the ADM as he prepares budgets in the coming years.
“You just have to look and see how significant the drop is, but you start making adjustments into your budget to take care of it,” Rochner said. “The purpose of a good (cash) balance and a rainy day fund is to handle those situations until you are able to make those corrections in your budget. … We just have to manage it, and we will.”
On Wednesday, the Jackson County Council conducted a public hearing for all binding budgets. That included Brownstown’s school budget, which has to be approved by the council because Brownstown has an appointed school board.
The budget will be up for adoption when the council meets at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 in the courthouse annex.
The school’s overall budget is proposed at $15,649,553 for 2017, up from $15,189,452 this year.
For 2017, the capital projects fund is estimated at $1,581,061. Major projects set for next year include bleachers and a press box at the softball field at the elementary school ($34,000), web-based accounting software and training for the administration building ($56,000) and electronic record-keeping for the high school ($22,000).
With the bus replacement fund, $295,955 has been budgeted to replace three buses in 2017.
Rochner, however, said the actual cost may be around $288,000. With the capital projects, transportation and bus replacement funds, the state has added in a circuit breaker, making the advertised funds higher.
Fund;2017 proposed;2016 adopted