Enrollment windfall for Aspen schools
The Aspen School District has enrolled more students this year than projected, spelling good news for the financially struggling district.The district, which receives per-pupil funding from the state, could get up to $400,000 more than anticipated, school officials said Monday. That figure could vary in the coming weeks, however, based on final enrollment numbers.The district is in the second year of a three-year plan to eliminate a budget deficit of $900,000. It cut $500,000 last year, and will slash an additional $250,000 this year. Superintendent Diana Sirko said she is not sure yet how this year’s windfall will affect next year’s budget cuts.”It definitely helps us,” Sirko said. “But it’s too early to say much more than that.”Sirko noted that since enrollment numbers vary each year, it is prudent to go ahead with some level of belt-tightening despite the extra funding. One reason the district is currently facing a budget crunch is because it overestimated last year’s enrollment, meaning the district received about $250,000 less than it budgeted. With that in mind, the district will move ahead with its community task force to recommend where next year’s cuts should fall.”We have to continue to look at reoccurring expenses,” Sirko said. “You can’t count on student enrollment.”After last year’s erroneously high enrollment projections, the district set this year’s projections at 2002-03 levels. It budgeted for 1359 students and currently has 1465 enrolled, which includes kindergartners that are calculated as half-time students. The state gives Aspen $8,000 per full-time student.The higher number of students has swelled class sizes in the sixth grade beyond limits set by the board last year, so the district is currently hiring an additional teacher for a one-year contract. As a result, this year’s income boost will be offset at least $60,000.”We didn’t have many new students in the middle school but they all seem to be in the sixth grade,” Sirko said.Sirko said additional teachers may be needed at the high school, which also reported more students than anticipated. The final numbers will not be known for at least another week, though, as high school students are just now returning from their weeklong Experiential Education trips.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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