Carson City’s student population turnover, as graduating seniors exit with fewer incoming kindergarteners to replace them, is creating a $2 million loss in expected revenues for the school district.
In his report to the Carson City school board on Sept. 14, district Fiscal Services Director Andrew Feuling said the district has savings and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to offset adverse economic impacts, but its enrollment numbers for 2021-22 are not what the district expected.
A drop of 260 students in CCSD’s average daily enrollment (ADE) numbers from approximately 7,606 students to 7,346 since August indicates a fiscal impact on its bottom line and overall changes in Carson City’s housing market, according to Feuling. Those ADE figures were based on numbers calculated and provided by documentation used by the Nevada Legislature, which seemed reasonable at the time, Feuling said, adding all districts had expected to take an impact due to COVID-19.
For Carson City, the loss forces the district to backfill more and make adjustments since its enrollment is not where it had anticipated to be among its more recent ADE count. The drop in revenue doesn’t come in losing students already attending Carson City schools, Feuling noted. The shift is represented in that turnover in which there are fewer kindergarteners starting each new academic year.
In 2019-20, there were 537 kindergarteners enrolling, which dropped to 472 in 2020-21 and, as of Sept. 14 this year, that slowly crept up to 496. However, there were 602 graduating seniors in 2019-20, 593 in 2020-21 and only 552 this year as of Sept. 14.
At the middle school level, CCSD saw a total enrollment drop of 80 students, combining numbers from Carson Middle and Eagle Valley Middle schools. High school numbers remained about flat.
The total amount of funding approved by the Legislature, taking into account the average daily enrollment at the 7,606.1 count at a rate of $7,763 per pupil, came out to approximately $71.9 million but with the loss of the 260 students in enrollment to the 7,346 count, the amount dropped to more than $69.8 million, resulting in Carson City’s loss of $2 million.
Feuling added as with any school year, it is likely CCSD will continue to enroll students, adding back some dollars and modifying the total funding.
The board approved a balanced budget this past June for fiscal year 2021-22. Its ESSER III funds, providing $9.9 million, will help to offset the costs and any reduced expenditures from remaining staffing vacancies provide an advantage, Feuling said. But should those ESSER III funds be used sooner, that strategy will diminish that money from use in fiscal year 2024, he said. However, it remains early and planning remains ongoing.
During the joint meeting between the Carson City Board of Supervisors and the school district’s Board of Trustees on Sept. 2, Community Development Director Hope Sullivan and Feuling provided data on the local housing market’s impact on the city’s student population. Census data, Sullivan said, revealed Carson City’s population has shrunk from 23 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2020, and Feuling said despite the city’s growth, with a 2020 population of 58,000, the actual number of young people 18 years of age and younger has decreased from 12,000 to 11,000 in recent months.
“Knowing that now, and looking at development, we are not seeing the number of school-aged children we would have expected out of most developments in town,” Feuling said.
While he said making the projections isn’t difficult, COVID-19 remains a dominating influence for policymakers and school districts in determining where the federal and state funds go.
“You have this unknown of what happens once COVID goes away, but these known developments and do we continue to see less-than-expected students out of those and what’s the impact to the districts,” Feuling told the Appeal. “In the long run, it kind of goes back to the Legislature and how much do they continue end up putting into education if the funding continues like it has for the last decade. … If they start moving, then we will be OK.”