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Declining enrollment may cost Havre schools


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Havre elementary schools could lose an estimated $316,536 in state funding next year because of falling enrollment, school officials said.

The Havre High School district could gain $58,860 because of increasing enrollment.

The figures are just estimates and assume that enrollment won't change by Februrary and that the state will continue to fund districts at the current rate per student.

But it was enough to give district officials pause.

"This may be as good as it gets," Ric Floren, Havre Public Schools director of operations, said in a memo to the school board.

The Havre Public Schools took its attendance count on Monday. It will do another count in February and use the average to figure state funding for the 2003-04 school year.

Floren, gave the figures to the Havre school board at its meeting Tuesday night.

According to Floren's figures, K-8 attendance dropped by 83.5 students or 7.3 percent from last year's final count. High school attendance gained 15 students or 2.2 percent.

If the Havre Public Schools loses students between the count on Monday and the upcoming count in February, then it could lose even more state funding, said Kirk Miller, superintendent of Havre Public Schools.

Miller also said the district faces the prospect that state legislators could cut state funding per student next year.

Lawmakers are facing an estimated $250 million deficit when they meet in January.

For the current school year, the rate is $3,706 per student in K-6 and $4,905 per student for 7-12.

"But the main concern is we've had a decline in enrollment and experienced this over the last nine years," Miller said today.

Monday's count was 1,291 K-8 students and 704 high school students. In 1993-94 there were 1,808 K-8 students and 797 high school students. The number of students attending kindergarten is divided in half for budget purposes because they only attend half days, Miller said.

"Our school district has made budget cuts over that nine-year period of time to account for the decline in enrollment," Miller said. "However, I hope that everyone would understand that the ability to make cuts is not in proportion to the reduction in funding that comes from the state.

"And by that, fixed costs such as heat, building supplies and other general costs are all increasing at the rate of inflation or greater and are necessary, regardless, if enrollment is increasing or declining," Miller added.

The total elementary school district budget is $6 million. The high school budget is $3.8 million.


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