Student enrollment keeps climbing; deficit projections keep droppingEnrollment numbers are up in the Cloquet School District – and that’s good news for the district’s financial picture.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Enrollment numbers are up in the Cloquet School District – and that’s good news for the district’s financial picture.
Speaking at Monday night’s board meeting, Business Manager Kim Josephson said the district’s anticipated shortfall for the year will drop by about $198,000 to a figure closer to $657,000 for the year – mainly due to more students coming into the district.
“Obviously, it’s good news,” Josephson said. “Right now that $657,000 figure represents a worst-case scenario. Student enrollment projections remain strong.”
Superintendent Ken Scarbrough noted that the total district enrollment entering February stood at a very strong 2,398 students.
“That’s more students than at any time since I’ve been here,” he said.
The district’s financial picture may improve still further in the new state budget.
Governor Mark Dayton’s proposed budget would restore approximately $100,000 to $200,000 to the district coffers in 2013 and close to $900,000 in 2014 as part of paying back the so-called “funding shift” of prior years.
The funding mechanism of how to pay back the $2.2 billion shift, which was initially proposed under Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2010 and which played a role in the state government shutdown of 2011, has been a subject of great political contention.
At that time, the state “borrowed” money from scheduled payments to school districts to help balance the state budget as required by law.
The initial 2012 state budget contained a proposal to pay back the shift earlier. That budget was vetoed by Governor Dayton, who has proposed his own repayment mechanism in the 2013 budget.
In other board news, Scarbrough led a discussion with the board regarding weather closures of district facilities. Two such closures occurred during the week of Jan. 21 – one due to ice and the other due to frigid temperatures.
Scarbrough said that the ice day closure was a “no-brainer” due to the condition of side roads and rural roads but asked if board members had heard any feedback regarding the wind chill closure.
“Yes – that we’re wimps,” board member Duane Buytaert said.
Board Chair Gary Huard noted that improvements to jackets and cold-weather technology should help students stay warm while waiting for school buses, but Scarbrough said part of the decision to close in cold weather was dictated by students being unprepared by parents for cold conditions.
“We have kids coming to school in the winter without mittens and boots and it drives people nuts,” he said. “It’s a weighty decision [to close school] but if parents have care issues and have to be at work, we have to decide whether it’s actually safer to keep kids in school on cold days.”
Scarbrough said the district will work with media and parents to remind everyone of the need to make sure children are adequately prepared for cold weather mornings.
In other news, the board voted to contract with Economy Garages for a 24- by 40-foot storage building to be located at Churchill Elementary to address that school’s storage needs at a cost of $19,500. Scarbrough said it was possible the district would either replace facilities at other sites or build new in the next budget year.