Declining enrollment figures at the start of the 2020-21 school year and recent staff turnover are weighing in a loss of about $1.25 million for the Carson City School District, according to early budget projections.
In the first look at COVID-19’s impact on district registration this year as of the 11th count day, district chief financial officer Andrew Feuling gave an update at Tuesday’s board meeting on Carson City’s standing on enrollment figures, with the total count at 7,502 students as of Sept. 8, 2020, in contrast to 7,757 as of Sept. 4, 2019.
Kindergarten has seen the most significant decline to date, going from an enrollment of 533 in 2019 to 472 this year and prekindergarten from 61 last year to 44 this year. Feuling added that it’s hard to know for sure what the true potential for this year’s typical pre-K and kindergarten numbers might have been without COVID-19’s impact. He also noted more families have chosen to move to homeschooling for those early grades due to concerns about the pandemic.
The first look at the budget comes especially early this year at the board’s request with COVID’s impact on school spending. Many factors since the pandemic was discovered in March have affected costs, and managing the district’s affairs has produced a different outcome since then, Feuling said.
“You have made many decisions trying to get to a balanced budget, and the budget is no longer balanced,” he told the trustees.
The loss in enrollment initially would have led to a $1.8 million drop, but with changes in staffing from turnovers and the resulting vacancies, Feuling said principals and administrators were able to get creative. They found ways where some positions might not have to be replaced right away or they were able to identify new hires that come out of the college age range with less experience than others from a more veteran quadrant. This led to offsetting the expenditures by about $600,000.
“That improves the picture, so it’s still early and there’s still more work to be done,” Feuling told the board. “But that $1.8 million is still a big number.”
Overall, the update leaves the district’s unaudited ending fund balance for fiscal year 2021 at an estimated $12.15 million, or 18 percent, down from this year’s $13.4 million, or 20 percent, a reduction of about $750,000.
CARES Act distributions
In July, the district received a portion of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding distributed to Nevada’s local governments to assist with expenses incurred by the pandemic. CCSD has gained from this support at three levels, including the district’s own allocation of $1.1 million, the state allocation of $772,000 of the total $50 million designated in Assembly Bill 3 of the 31st special session and Carson City’s portion of $1.5 million from its own $10 million allotment.
The district’s direct pot of money, Feuling said, was determined for use based on items that “best support our students’ needs in relation to the impact COVID has had on education,” he said. Schools or student learning that might have been impacted directly as a result of the pandemic benefit the most from this particular money.
In the other two pots of funding, Feuling said, guidance remained clear that the money was not to be used to replace as revenue replacement to fill existing positions that the district would lose from COVID-19. The city, however, approached the district early and said it would be a top priority for funding and asked what its needs were.
Funding from the $1.1 million of the district’s allocation is required to follow federal Title I guidance, Feuling noted.
Money from either of the city or state pots so far have been designated to assist with basic sanitization purchases such as sprayers, masks, gloves and other expenditures and the district’s most essential needs.