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School District 200 prepares to cut $1.5 million from its budget

Ten years ago, almost 5,000 students were enrolled in Hastings School District 200. Today there are 4,539, and the numbers are projected to continue declining for the next 10 years.

This, of course, is not good news as the student enrollment numbers are tied closely with revenues for the district from the federal and state governments and the local levy. As the numbers decline, so does the amount of revenue that the district takes in.

With that in mind, the Hastings District 200 School Board this month has authorized the preparation of cutting $1.5 million from the district’s budget for the 2014-2015 school year.

”We have to make the final determination by April,” said Superintendent Tim Collins. “We will have a public meeting – we haven’t set the date yet.

“Yes, there will be reductions in staff and there will be increases in class size, with the focus on maintaining our current class sizes at K to 4.”

How we got here

An enrollment survey was completed for the district 10 years ago. The numbers for the 10 years were “right on,” said Collins. For planning purposes, the district hired the same firm again this fall to complete another 10-year projection survey.

The results, released last month, are not good news for the district’s enrollment. The enrollment is projected to continue declining for the next 10 years by another 800 students, down to about 3,700 students. The decline is both in the elementary and secondary levels.

Why? While the city of Hastings will continue to grow, the number of children will not, according to the study. Part of it, according to the survey, is that the number of women of child-bearing age will continue to decline in the district.

When the first survey was completed, the district was operating in the red — $2.3 million — at that time. The first 10-year operating levy was put to the voters; a second was put to the voters in 2005. Both passed. District voters renewed the 2003 levy at the same amount last fall.

The amount of funding per pupil remains the same, but is based on the number of students. With fewer students each year, there is less received from the levies.

The district took cost-saving measures within the past several years, Collins said. It sold the former Cooper Elementary School building, converted the former Tilden Kindergarten Center into a Community Center for use by the Community Education programs and Hastings Area Senior Center. The programs were previously housed in rental spaces.

Savings, reserves

At the end of 2013-14 school year, the district will be operating with a balance of approximately $12 million in its reserves. However, its expenses also will have exceeded its revenues by $1.6 million this year. If the district does not make reductions, that fund balance will continue to decline each year, Collins said. It will decline at a larger and faster clip, again because of the enrollment decline.

Some additional funds were granted by the state Legislature for schools during the 2013 session, and Hastings will receive additional funds, again based on per pupil numbers. However, with another loss in numbers next year, the impact is not significant enough to avoid having to make cuts, Collins said.

“But, yes, there is new money, and we are still thankful,” said Collins.