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That Feared Flagler Schools Enrollment Drop And Loss of $1.8 Million? Didn’t Happen.

| September 6, 2013

Both overall enrollment and the district's hemorrhage of students toward charter schools has stalled. (© FlaglerLive)

Both overall enrollment and the district’s hemorrhage of students toward charter schools has stalled. (© FlaglerLive)

In early May, the Flagler County School Board looked like it was in panic mode. It was projecting a drop in enrollment and a serious erosion of dollars, with a net operating loss of $1.8 million when all was accounted for.

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The projected loss was a central pillar of the school district’s argument to voters that they should approve a late-breaking referendum and agree to raise their property taxes modestly to compensate. The district was asking for the renewal of an existing tax and the addition of a new tax, for a combined 50 cents per $1,000 in taxable value. The combination would have raised an additional $3.2 million to $4 million a year, though only half of that would be “new” revenue, since voters were already paying the other half.

Meanwhile, and even though the district was getting an extra $5.3 million in state dollars, the school board went to work cutting more than $1 million  just in case the referendum did not pass. It was a wise move. The referendum failed, with 57 percent of voters opposed, the first time in recent memory that a school tax referendum had failed in the county.

As it turns out, that defeat may not have as dire a consequence as the district projected, given the new numbers.

In May, School District Finance Director Tom Tant had explained to the board how it faced hardship despite that new $5.3 million from the state. Much of that new money was already accounted for–$1.2 million for a mandated increase in contributions to the Florida Retirement System, $2.1 million for planned teacher raises, and half a million dollars for contributions to Daytona State College, to account for students enrolled in the district and in college.

The state was projecting an enrollment of 12,765 students in Flagler, with each student getting an allocation of $6,316.55.

Tant told the board in May that the state was likely overstating the enrollment figure by 283 students. It was never clear how that figure was reached, other than a few months’ trend. But Tant urged the board to budget on a loss of 283 students for the current year. That loss would equate to $1.8 million.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the first solid calculations of the new school year, two weeks in: that loss never materialized. In fact, enrollment has increased slightly, by about 10 students.

The district’s enrollment after two weeks of school stands at 12,772. That includes the 915 students at Imagine School at Town Center and at Palm Harbor Academy, the district’s two charter schools. Those are publicly funded schools, but they’re privately run. That means that the district’s loss of students to charter schools has also stopped, at least for now. (It helped that Global Outreach Academy, what would have been the third charter, closed its doors last Christmas, returning most of its 122 students to traditional schools. The district is reviewing the applications of at least two new charter schools for next year.)

That 17,772 is a handful of students more than the state was budgeting for Flagler. The district had 12,765 students enrolled at the end of last year, including the 1,000-odd students in the district’s two charter schools.

More to the point: That $1.8 million will be in the budget this year. (It actually already was, and would not have been withdrawn until after Christmas, had the enrollment drop materialized.)

Superintendent Janet Valentine said the district has already re-hired 10 teachers who had been told last May that they may not have a job this year.

There are n dramatic changes in enrollment at most schools. Flagler Palm Coast High School saw its enrollment increase by 150, for a total of 2,401. Matanzas High School added a little more than 50 students. Imagine added 45. But every elementary school lost some students. (See the full chart below.)

To be sure, the district is not in the clear. Last August the district began the school year with 300 more students than it ended it. Some of that erosion is normal. But the district doesn’t yet know whether the loss in students has bottomed out–or whether it should consider closing schools.

The certainty of that $1.8 million also means that the district will not have to dip into its reserves for that money, as it had projected it would. (“Without the additional funds,” Andy Dance, the school board chairman, had written in his defense of the referendum last spring, “the district will be removing another $1.7 million from our reserve fund, and by the end of next year, our reserves will be at 5 percent (the bottom of our Board ‘safe’ range). This is not a sustainable path and gives us no wiggle room to accommodate unforeseen challenges down the road. Programs and services that we were able to save this year will not be as lucky next year.”)

andy dance flagler county school board

Andy Dance (© FlaglerLive)

Dance added: “The additional funds allow us the time to see if the current eight month trend in reduced enrollment is a temporary adjustment or a long term problem. Currently, the loss of enrollment adds pressure for the Board to consider school closures. With the disruption to families, staff and the community that accompanies a school closure, we need to make sure we get this right. If the enrollment trend stops and becomes just a short term drop, approval of the referendum allows us a little more time to see if enrollment will stabilize and allow student population to naturally increase again as the economy continues to improve.”

The most recent figures suggest that stabilization is taking place, reducing pressure on the board to think of school closures.

Flagler County School Enrollment, 2011-2014

Enrollment at End of May 2011First-Day Enrollment, August 2011Certified Enrollment, Feb. 2012Enrollment at End of May, 2013Enrollment at end of May 2014Enrollment on Sept. 15, 2014
Belle Terre Elementary150414241400135713431329 (-14)
Buddy Taylor Middle10081013980100610331002 (-31)
Bunnell Elementary130612241228129012811235 (-46)
Flagler-Palm Coast High215524852338224723062442 (+136)
Imagine at Town Center520809815867896906 (+10)
Indian Trails Middle892914875806869909 (+40)
Matanzas High148516061587156615761606 (+30)
Old Kings Elementary114211421134113111111106 (-5)
Palm Harbor Academy92101112666366 (+3)
Phoenix Academy667268657971 (-8)
Rymfire Elementary137912981317130712681172 (-96)
Wadsworth Elementary931860862879901871 (-30)
Note: the numbers will fluctuate throughout the year, especially in the first few weeks and the last few weeks of the school year. Source: Tom Tant, finance director, Flagler County School District.

16 Responses for “That Feared Flagler Schools Enrollment Drop And Loss of $1.8 Million? Didn’t Happen.”

  1. Pastor S,Jones says:

    Maybe now the School Board can spend some money to search for a qualified Superintendent NATIONWIDE..

    • FPC Grad Class of 2010 says:

      That is a horrible idea. Look at what happened when they did that the last time…

    • InTheKnow says:

      There IS a qualified superintendent waiting to take over when Janet Valentine retires. We’ve already hired a superintendent outside of Florida & like FPC said, it was not a good decision. Perhaps by the term “NATIONWIDE” you mean it to be something else?

  2. You tell me says:

    I guess the special election that costs us $100,000 wasn’t really needed then…..looks like they have more money than they know what to do with. It doesn’t surprise me that Conklin, Dickenson,Fisher, and Tucker have been telling us what they want us to believe all along, instead of the truth.

  3. kmedley says:

    So, the sky wasn’t falling?

  4. Robert says:

    To You Tell Me says
    I don’t think they even knew.
    This group has proven that they are out to lunch.
    They didn’t even know of the drop in enrollment in several schools, until after the fact.

    So based on past preformances it would be giving them a little bit too much credit to say that they knew that the budget crunch didn’t have as much crunch as they thought it did.
    That would point to not only the school board but lackluster reporting from the school system staff.

    To Second Pastor S Jones you took the words out of my mouth before I could put them on paper. The no money justification may have been just an off handed comment to provide a reason for handing the job to the deputy without searching for the best available candidate.

  5. Outsider says:

    While I have no problem funding the schools, this administration’s methods of threats and false claims is beginning to become apparent. We were told they would close schools if the referendum didnt pass. Lo and behold, it failed and they suddenly had enough money to not only keep the schools open, but buy 5.5 million worth of laptops, and still have a surplus. They’ve destroyed what little credibility they had with me, and others I’m sure.

    • Out of Curiosity says:

      While I’m no fan of the school board’s actions lately, the money for the technology comes from the half penny sales tax that voters approved earlier. That money is set aside for that specific use.

  6. Ms. Cindy says:

    If FPC has an increase enrollment of 150 students with each student getting an allocation of $6,316.55 that equates to $947,482 dollars in the budget. Maybe, just maybe, they can find $60,000 to purchase the 190 members new uniforms. Fact: The uniforms the students are currently using are 15 years old. Fact: You have students marching in band uniforms who were not even born when these uniforms were originally purchased. Fact: You have teachers at FPC who remember marching in the same uniforms being worn today when they attended FPC. Fact: We need to support the 190 students who currently go out on the field every Friday night and bring life to our football games. Fact: We need to support a Band Director who puts in 10 hour days to make sure everything runs smoothly for these190 students. Please, let’s allocate some of that $947,482 to the FPC Marching Bulldogs.

  7. Jordyn says:

    Excellent news. I hope this means they do NOT consider closing any schools, especially when the schools chosen for the chopping block are the ones who have most consistently scored the highest marks on the FCAT grading. I believe some state money that can be received is still tied to that scoring – the last thing you want to do is take a chance on losing your best performers and losing more state funding. And of course, if school property isn’t being used by the district, charter schools get to jump on it. What happens if a charter school takes over the Indian Trails property and a year or two later, enrollment ticks back up? Then the district will have to spend even more money building a new school. Closing schools and consolidating in a large city with many school properties may make sense, but in still small Flagler county, it’s a bad long term plan.

  8. AndnowtheTRUTH says:

    Excellent news….but, this being the case, why were teachers totally SCREWED out of their step increases in the beginning of the year? Guess the school board likes lawsuits.

  9. rthomp11 says:

    Hmmm…..I wonder if the increased enrollment is due to all the ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS thinking they will soon become AMERICAN citizens for doing nothing more than stealing across the border.

    • Anonymous says:

      @rthomp11 says–Are you a member of the “FOX news/Rush Limbaugh/ Sheriff Joe” fan club? Do you propose we card every dark-skinned hispanic looking kid who dares to cross the threshold of our local schools, in case their parent MIGHT be here illegally? More polite racism from the illustrious citizens of our fair county…

  10. Florida Native says:

    Attitude of Palm Coast and Flagler County commissions and school board: “Gone fishing.”

  11. fruitcake says:

    They constantly play a shell game with their budget and funds!

  12. jp says:

    Over taxed middle class is going to revolt soon…

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