Declining statewide enrollment numbers could affect Garfield Re-2 savings
Declining student enrollment numbers in districts across the state may force Garfield Re-2 to dip into its savings account in coming budget years.
Though local enrollment increased from the 20-21 school year to this year, enrollment numbers have declined in districts across the state. Garfield Re-2 increased from 4,526 students to 4,614 between this school year and last.
“Things aren’t looking bad yet,” Re-2 Chief Financial Officer Jeff Blanford told board members Jan. 12. “But they’re getting a little shaky.”
Colorado allocates K-12 funding on a per-pupil basis, and right now the state is trying to rebound from a 20,000-student shortfall experienced in the 2020-21 school year. This school year, however, the state still saw a 0.03% decrease in full-time students.
The state’s current appropriation for K-12 funding is $571 million, which comes out to $4,849 per pupil. Locally, school districts across the state are putting up $3,141 per pupil.
But Blanford said since the statewide October student count drives a midyear bill aimed at adjusting school finances, there’s a possibility Colorado’s General Assembly reduces the state’s share by $206 million, while local stakeholders could be asked to increase their funding by $139 million. That would mean local districts would be providing $3,279 per pupil.
Chances of the state decreasing its funding midyear is highly unlikely, Blanford said.
“I can’t guarantee, but it’s very unusual for the General Assembly to change the allocation for school finance down during the year, even though we did see declines in student counts,” Blanford said.
District spokesperson Theresa Hamilton said on Tuesday if state legislators decide to reduce per-pupil funding and Colorado districts are asked to increase local share, Garfield Re-2 may need to pull more from its fund balance.
The district’s projected 2020-2021 fund balance, which is essentially a savings account, was $16.8 million.
“If there were a reduction in funds coming from the state, that would increase the percentage of local dollars in our budget,” Hamilton said.
While the district can’t predict what the General Assembly might do this session when it comes to K-12 spending, the more likely option would be for the state to buy down its budget shortfall for K-12 appropriations to $365 million. In this scenario, the state would maintain its share of $4,849 per pupil, while local share would still see an increase to $3,279 per pupil.
Current declines in student enrollment across the state, however, also reduce costs for the state, Blanford said. Year-to-date revenue projections, in fact, show a 11.7% increase from last school year.
Local share, meanwhile, is projected to see increased support from a bump in mill levies. Recently, the district implemented a plan to increase local property taxes by about 1 mill each year until 2032.
“The local share is going up this year because of the investments we’re making,” Blanford said. “So, in terms of a revenue and availability standpoint, there is going to be more funding available. What the Legislature exactly does with it, we’ll see about that.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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