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Enrollment down at BEA School District

By Staff | Mar 23, 2009

One thing is certain — Blue Earth Area School District officials are facing a lot of unknowns as they put together next year’s budget.

Figures released by Superintendent Dale Brandsoy at Tuesday’s meeting show a drop in student numbers.

Total enrollment for the 2009-10 school year is anticipated to be 1,170. That compares to the current 1,192.

Brandsoy says the estimates may change because the district has yet to hold its annual kindergarten roundup.

If the projections hold up, that will result in a loss of revenue.

Alan Wilhelmi, the district’s fiscal services coordinator, says 22 fewer students means a minimum reduction of $154,000 in state aid.

While overall enrollment may drop, three sections of third-grade in Blue Earth are each expected to have 24 students. Also, fourth grade shows three sections of 23 students each.

Administrators will keep a close watch on class sizes to ensure they do not get too large.

Brandsoy says there could be some aid from the federal stimulus package to help address any overcrowding issues.

“Some dollars could be used to make another section, for class-size reductions,” he says.

Any federal stimulus money would go to the Title I and Special Education programs.

Although the board received good news that BEA likely will receive funds from the stimulus plan, the message wasn’t all good. The somewhat bad news — no one knows how much money the district will get and it’s not clear when the funds will be available or what restrictions there will be.

“We’re not budgeting for any of it at this point. We need to be careful,” Brandsoy says.

The superintendent warned the board that stimulus money does not come without plenty of paperwork.

Half of the money, says Brandsoy, must be used for existing programming and the remainder to develop new programs.

Because of mandates, any new programming would require continual funding from the district.

“We have to be creative how we’ll use the money once we get it so we can support any new programs in the future,” Brandsoy says.

The Legislature isn’t making the budgetingprocess any easier for school administrators.

While the governor would like to see more funding for schools, the Senate has other ideas.

Brandsoy says state senators are proposing a 7 percent cut across-the-board, including education.

“That’s a very drastic hit. Right now, we’re looking at a budget of zero percent,” he says. “We are hoping not to go backwards.”

It’s anticipated the state’s budget won’t be completed until mid-summer, while the board must have the district’s done by June.

Another bill making its way through the Legislature has caught the superintendent’s eye.

A ‘shared services’ measure would require school districts to purchase goods and services from approved vendors. And, Brandsoy doesn’t think that is a good idea.

“My concern is that we try and keep as much of our purchasing local. We want to support small businesses and have them be supportive of our school,” he says. “I think it’s working (the way it is).”

Brandsoy asked the board to look at the bill and contact local legislators.