ISD 110: New enrollment numbers drop, budget review underway

By Staff Reports

Officials with ISD 110 are looking at the budget after growth in the student population did not meet projections for the 2016-17 school year.

Over the past four years, Waconia schools have seen consistent growth, averaging 110 students per year. The district based future growth estimates on that figure, expecting the student population to climb by triple digits for the current school year. In reality, the student population grew by only 20 students. As a result, the district is reviewing budget adjustments for the coming year and is also researching reasons for the decline.

The district has seen an increase of triple digits or near-triple digits for all but 3 of the last 16 years – in 2007-08, the student population grew by only 38 students; in 2011-12, the population gained 21 students; and in 2014-15, the district saw a gain of 77 students.

District officials remain optimistic for future growth.

“We feel confident that the growth will happen, just not in the time frame we were expecting,” said Pat Devine, district superintendent. “We have always been transparent and we have an obligation to be up front with the community about this development.”

That shortfall of students carries a hefty price tag.

Deficit spending had been expected by district officials, and was discussed during community presentations and conversations leading up to recent construction projects. The district had expected to deficit spend about $500,000 out of a fund balance of $4.3 million until growth caught up. The slower than expected growth has ballooned deficit spending to about $1.2 million. The district’s annual budget expenses are $41 million.

“We talked about how we have money set aside, knowing that we would be deficit spending for a few years. But now, with growth being slower than expected, we need to make some changes in our approach,” Devine said.

District officials have been working on a plan to realign programming to correspond to the actual number of new students. The plan will be finalized in the near future.

“We are focusing on being fiscally responsible while upholding our academic standards. While some programs will be adjusted, there are no discussion of completely eliminating curriculum. As always, we remain committed to helping students explore what they’re passionate about,” Devine said. “We weren’t moving in the right direction and we’re making changes so we can get back to where we need to be. That’s really what I want everyone to know.”