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Budget Projections Show Possible Continued Need for Schools of Choice in Trenton

Budget projections for the coming years leave Trenton Public Schools with a need for additional revenue.

Despite , Trenton Public Schools could potentially remain schools of choice indefinitely due to projected drops in enrollment and state funding.

Mike Hawkins, president of the Trenton Board of Education, said a decision to continue , after a one-year district commitment expires, would rely on a number of factors.

"We want to examine it," Hawkins said. "We want to make sure it's working before we make it long term. We want to make sure that it's something that is a benefit to our district."

Hawkins said class sizes play a large role in determining continued limited open enrollment.

"Class sizes are recommended by administration, and we will go by their recommendation," Hawkins said.

Though there is not a standard class size recommended by the Michigan Department of Education, class sizes in Trenton elementary schools are typically between 25-30 students and about 30 students in the middle and high schools according to interim Superintendent Larry Leapley.

"They (administrators) would never overcrowd the classrooms," Leapley said. "They would have to see what the availability is in terms of any openings."

Leapley's budget forecasts project a continued need for additional revenue to the district.

All state funding for schools is based on per pupil count and Trenton Public Schools continue to enroll fewer and fewer students year after year.

Since 2002, the district has seen a loss of about 600 students—equivalent to about $5 million in lost revenue.

Leapley projects continued losses in enrollment and state funding from now until the 2014-15 school year. He anticipates an additional loss of 60 students equivalent to about $460,000 for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. This is a projected total loss of about $900,000.

Switching over to schools of choice now qualifies the district to gain an additional $75 per out-of-district student. When added to per pupil funding, 60 new students to the district could mean about $300,000 in additional revenue for the district.

When added to increased costs for wages and benefits Leapley anticipates a deficit of nearly $1.5 million for the 2013-14 school year and $2 million for the 2014-15 school year.

Retirement costs currently make up about 23 percent of total annual expenditures. Leapley anticipates this number to inflate to just over 30 percent by the 2014-15 school year.

District administrators have been balancing the budget by taking money from the general fund balance to make up for consistent deficits. The general fund balance is currently about $800,000, down from about $7 million in 2002.

Costly building repairs made between 2002 and 2008, before a bond issue passed, reduced the general fund significantly.

Leapley anticipates a deficit of about $1.4 million for the next school year, which could reduce the general fund balance to about $97,000—the lowest it has ever been in district history.

Additional revenue is a must for the district, but Hawkins and Leapley said they wouldn’t consider extending schools of choice without first taking a look at the pros and cons.

One thing is for sure: the board members do not plan to allow full open enrollment according to Hawkins.

"If were going to do schools of choice, I see it continuing on a limited basis," Hawkins said. "If things go well, we'll look at where there's openings and see if that's an option. No one on the board is open to a full schools of choice option."

Nate Stemen (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 06:50 PM
How do you feel about another year of schools of choice? To early to say?
MaryBeth Cox Martin April 20, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I laughed out loud when I read what Mr. Leapley said. They would never let them over crowd the classrooms. HAHAHA!!!! Has he seen how full they are? Yes opening them up would bring in some money but it would also crowd the classrooms.
Thonya Huddleston April 20, 2012 at 11:59 AM
No surprise! This is just the beginning....I project the Board will be "forced" to approve getting rid of that word "limited" within the next couple years.
TJ April 20, 2012 at 02:37 PM
My kids classroom size at Hedke is more like 33 students. Thats just too many.
Ron April 21, 2012 at 06:34 AM
No surprise here. Goes right along with what I have said all along about the budget. They are not addressing the problem. And too say no one on the board is on favor of removing the limited status is ridiculous. It wasn't very long ago when no one on the.board was in favor of school of choice either. Just give them a year or two. I'm still in favor of a recall before they completely destroy the entire school system.
MaryBeth Cox Martin April 21, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Tim you're completely right. My daughter is at Hedke also. I have no idea what Mr Leapley was thinking saying they would never allow for over crowded classrooms. Has he looked at Hedkes load?? For the last 2yrs since they closed Taylor there has been over crowding. Oh but they kept on saying we are going to fix it. Still haven't seen that. But now we're going to add more children?!?!?! Really school board???? I believe enrollment is down due to the parents sick of waiting for smaller class size and going else where. Maybe if you would fix the problem you started 2yrs ago maybe enrollment would be back up. I myself looked elsewhere but thought we'd give them a chance to work out the classes. Looks like nothing is going to change. Add more kids, why not. Just don't add more teacher to lower class size. I will be exploring my options.
Ron April 23, 2012 at 08:08 AM
Thonya, I totally agree. Over the weekend I was talking to a friend of mine in Riverview where they have a School of Choice program and was told that the ratio was somewhere around 70% outside students to 30% Riverview students. I think we're heading in the same direction now. Then the Riverview board recently asked the local taxpayers to approve a 47,000,000 bond proposal. Well, you can guess what the voters said to that request! Come to think of it, seems that we approved a bond proposal not too long ago to improve and update the schools for our kids. Maybe we should ask the 60 new families that wil soon be coming to Trenton to help contribute to the fund seeing that they get to enjoy all of the benefits now.
Paul April 23, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Ron, may I suggest instead of just talking to friends in Riverview about school of choice numbers you should probably get real data. According to mischooldata.org, in 2010-2011 their school district had 2746 students of which 1103 came from outside of their boundaries. That would be 40%, not 70% as you stated above.
Trenton Resident with kids April 23, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I found the RESA.net site provides a couple of .pdf files that are helpful. Total head count by district -http://www.resa.net/downloads/student_accounting/dbfall1112leaunauditedmembership_20120109_151911_43.pdf School of choice breakdown by district - http://www.resa.net/downloads/student_accounting/choicefall11-12_20120124_101010_3.pdf Riverview has 40.5% SOC - Southgate has 21% SOC Wyandotte has 14% SOC - plus a few football recruits in there If this keeps up the only funding for schools will be through the state because no city res
Trenton Resident with kids April 23, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I fixed the 1st link: http://www.resa.net/downloads/student_accounting/dbfall1112leaunauditedmembership_20120109_151911_43.pdf And to finish my point at the end: If this keeps up the only funding for schools will be through the state because no district will get additional taxes/Bonds passed.
Trenton Resident with kids April 24, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Link to Riverview Bond failure. http://www.thenewsherald.com/articles/2012/02/29/news/doc4f4d972e80b79535659456.txt With 40% of the students from SOC the school board in Riverview will never get this passed.
Ron April 27, 2012 at 05:31 AM
I stand corrected. But the fact is that districts will begin to count of SOC students more and more. You can forget about ever getting another bond proposal passed again. We have no idea what these programs will do to smaller less productive schools in the future. If students leave a district to go to a SOC district because of better educational opportunities, what ends up happening to the district they leave? At some point those districts will find themselves under an emergency manager. In the long run I think we're going to see districts merging or consolidating. It's already happening with municipalities. We've crossed that line, so there's no turning back now.
Paul May 02, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Ron, the economy has much to do with cities and school districts looking at deficits. Also, the governor is helping out his business friends with money that is supposed to go to schools instead of looking out for the youngest citizens of our state. I guess he figures districts can just board up their windows like stores that go out of business.

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