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BISD looking down barrel of falling enrollment gun

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

If you think it doesn't matter if your child misses more than a couple of days of school every year, think again. When enrollment drops, and when average daily attendance drops, public school budgets come up short.
That's a challenge the Bandera ISD board has been facing for over a decade. The district's current budget was based on an attendance rate of 95 percent. It's been slightly below that recently.
While the 2014-15 FY budget was balanced when adopted in June 2014, a continuing decrease in enrollment and participation in special programs is leading to an estimated decrease in state funding, district financial officer Tish Grill told board members Monday, April 13.
State aid is estimated to be $350,000 less than was projected during the budget adoption process. However, Grill explained that amount was a "worst case scenario."
Grill anticipates that mid-year resignations and retirements will retrieve some payroll expenses. She also expects to make other positive budget adjustments as the fiscal year progresses in order to decrease the deficit.
"I expect we will close the gap by the end of the year," she said.
In a phone conversation following the board meeting, Grill said enrollment numbers in the Bandera ISD have been falling since it peaked in 2002.
Since state law ties funding from the state to enrollment numbers and weighted average daily attendance, dropping enrollment and those low attendance rates, means a drop in monies received from the state.
"Kudos to Ms. Howell [BISD Superintendent] and the board for understanding the challenges and supporting the budget," said Grill. "We're just like a household. When the income goes down, we have to tighten our belts. But we have stayed on top of it."
In addition to working with the state's existing complicated funding formulas, BISD is fully aware that the Legislature is back in session up in Austin.
"Some [proposed] bills are looking at no money and some are looking at some money," said Howell. "The Legislature is looking at trying to re-balance some of the cuts [to public education] made by the previous session."
There is also a school finance lawsuit pending that may affect those funding formulas.
Both Howell and Grill agreed that the district will just have to wait until the Legislature makes its final decisions before they will have a clue as to the impact of the current law making session.
"[The district] is currently in a low-growth pattern. We have no hospital, no fracking and San Antonio's growth is moving out IH 10 and 35," said Howell, referring to economic factors that affect the district's financial outlook. "Readjusting our finances to reflect low or no growth is not a fun thing to do," she concluded.