Drop in enrollment cuts raises

Brownstown Central school administrators, classified employees won’t get increase


Because of a drastic reduction in enrollment this past school year and an anticipated decline in 2017-18, Brownstown Central Community School Corp. administrators and classified employees will not receive raises in the upcoming school year.

The corporation’s enrollment went from 1,671 in 2015-16 to 1,585 in 2016-17, and Superintendent Greg Walker said he projects a gradual decline in the coming years.

A school corporation’s general fund budget, a majority of which is used to pay for employees’ salaries and benefits, is based on enrollment.

Fortunately, no staff members have lost their jobs, and school programming hasn’t been affected.

“Right now, 91.25 percent of our general fund is for salaries and benefits, so when you’ve got to make cuts, that doesn’t leave you very much, 8.75 percent,” Walker said. “So luckily, we’ve not lost any programs. We’ve been able to add a few programs.”

Those affected would include eight administrators and also classified employees, including bus drivers, secretaries, librarians, cooks, teacher’s aides, custodians and others who are not certified teachers.

The last time administrators and classified employees didn’t receive raises was 2010-11 and 2011-12. Raises since then have ranged from 1 to 3 percent.

Walker said a slight bump in enrollment and a new funding formula allowed the corporation to give raises the past two school years.

Brownstown’s enrollment hit a peak of 1,829 in 2006-07 and saw a decline each school year until increasing from 1,650 in 2013-14 to 1,667 and 1,671 the next two school years.

Part of the big drop this past school year was attributed to 151 seniors graduating in 2016 and only 103 kindergartners enrolling for 2016-17. That was a loss of 48 students out of 86 overall.

Walker said the corporation’s drop in enrollment between the past two school years resulted in a loss of $583,000 in general fund revenue.

In recent years, some positions in the three school buildings have not been filled when employees have retired or resigned. The number of classrooms in the elementary school also changed. Both actions resulted in a money savings for the corporation.

“Any time we have somebody leave or retire, we look at that position, ‘Hey, is this something we can absorb?'” Walker said.

The drop in enrollment could be attributed to several factors.

Open enrollment became an option in Indiana a few years ago, giving students an opportunity to attend the school of their choosing.

Another factor is Brownstown being in a rural area and having limited job opportunities. Last year, Walker said 27 students moved out of state, mostly likely related to a parent’s job.

“You don’t see a lot of new housing additions going up here like you do in Seymour, and a lot of folks, I think, are choosing to live closer to work a lot of times,” he said. “We have a pretty high mobility rate of kids just coming and going a lot of times, too.”

Looking at enrollment at other Jackson County school corporations and those in surrounding counties, Walker said the only ones with increases in the past five years are Seymour and Bartholomew County. Both of them have a lot of job opportunities with numerous industries, while Brownstown only has one industry.

In projecting enrollment, Walker said he takes the number of live births in Jackson County and looks five years later to see what percent of those kids may enroll in kindergarten at Brownstown. That is predicted to be about 19.6 percent.

For 2017-18, he predicts 1,568 students corporation wide, including 114 kindergartners.

The corporation is taking a few steps to try to increase enrollment.

Upgrades continue to be made at the school buildings. That includes the current construction project at the high school football field, tennis courts and gymnasium.

“Obviously, when somebody drives by your school, that’s curb appeal, just like shopping for a house,” Walker said.

This summer, the corporation also is going to update its website.

“It is outdated, so we’re going to improve it and have it a little bit more flashy because when folks are looking to come into the community, that’s the first thing they do,” Walker said of looking at the website.

The corporation also will continue to do some self-promotion. That includes having a booth at the Jackson County Fair to share information about the schools’ offerings and accomplishments, including dual credit courses, high accountability grades and the high school being a Four Star School.

“Academics and athletics are solid, and we kind of feel we’re the best-kept secret in Jackson County,” Walker said.

As far as teachers’ salaries for 2017-18, the collective bargaining process will start after Sept. 15, which is when the annual student count is conducted. That average daily membership will determine what the corporation will receive for general fund revenue.

Walker said beforehand, corporation business manager Jade Peters will put together a budget based on what they think enrollment is going to be to have a balanced budget.

“If enrollment comes in above that number, then there’s potential you look at your revenue versus your expenses,” Walker said. “If there’s room there, then you may be able to give a raise. We’ll go in and negotiate with the teachers, and if something happens and we are able to give a raise, then we’ll probably go back and revisit these folks (administrative and classified employees).”

State law doesn’t allow a school corporation to bargain a contract that will put it in deficit financing, he said.

“Last time we were able to bargain a two-year contract, the (classroom teachers) association was very good to work with. It was very professional on both sides, and I enjoyed that fact working with them,” Walker said.

“I know this will be, too,” he said. “Obviously, there won’t be as many dollars to talk about, but we’ll see what there is, and we’ll do what we can do, as we always do for our teachers. I always tell them, ‘If there’s money to give, I think you deserve raises, but sometimes, when there’s no money to give, there’s no money to give.'”

By the numbers

Brownstown Central Community School Corp. enrollment

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.