Increased enrollment leads to reduction in budget deficit for Niles Community Schools

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Enrollment continues to rise in Niles Community Schools and the benefits to the district which come with the increased enrollment were evident as the Board of Education amended the district budget for the 2004-2005 budget Monday night.
Because enrollment numbers are higher than what the board projected in June when the budget was passed, the district reduced its $800,000 deficit by $200,000.
Revenues increased $187,300 while expenditures decreased $25,732 since June.
A majority of the increased revenue came as a result of increased state funds due to increased school enrollment.
Niles current enrollment through Nov. 30 is 4,034, up 11 students from October's count of 4,023. Enrollment is up 74 students over June projections, which the district used when approving the 2004-2005 school year budget.
If the increased enrollment holds until the next count day, Niles would receive $6,700 in state funds for every new student in the district.
Niles Superintendent Doug Law said the money received because of higher enrollment on the September count day could offset losses should the school district not get the planned $6,700 from the state.
The September count day generated $172,000 in funds which were greater than the district projected.
For the past two years, the state has not paid the full $6,700 by the time the school year was over due to shortfalls in the state's school aid and general funds.
Last week, state legislators took $120 million dollars out of the state's general fund and moved it to the school aid fund. The move covers last year's $7 million shortfall and this year's projected $113 million shortfall.
Law said he still expects a cut in state funding, but said it probably won't come until the spring after new legislators are sworn in and they get a chance to examine the state budget problems.
Law said state funding cuts happen so often "we have grown to expect it around this time."
The board also approved the hiring of Tower Pinkster Titus Associates, Inc. of Grand Rapids to conduct an evaluation of all buildings in the district and work with a citizens committee to make recommendations to the board.
The firm was chosen after the board's building a site committee evaluated eight proposals and interviewed three firms.
The move came about from a recommendation in the district's long-range strategic plan, which approved in the spring of 2002, Law said.
The district's youngest building, Ring Lardner Middle School, will be 40 years old this year. The high school is almost 50 and the district's oldest building, Eastside Elementary School, was built in 1939.
If a bond issue is recommended by Tower Pinkster Titus, Law said the school district would try to get one passed.
A bond issue is not in the immediate future of the district, as the evaluation could take a year to 18 months.
The firm will begin its work next week when employees will begin walking through the buildings. Senior architect Steven Hoekzema was excited to begin after the board meeting.
Tom Mathison of Tower Pinkster Titus said the firm will take all the time necessary to ensure the best decision for the school district is made.