The latest student head count figures in the four lakes area public school districts remain unofficial, but the preliminary figures indicate a drop in enrollment in the Huron Valley, Waterford, West Bloomfield, and Walled Lake Consolidated school districts. The student enrollment figures are a crucial component of the state’s per-pupil public school funding system: A drop in enrollment can mean less state funding for a district, while enrollment growth can result in additional state financial support. Student count days are used by the state to determine how much money each school district receives through a per-pupil allowance.
The official student count days, as established by the state’s School Aid Act, are the Wednesday in the fourth full week of school in a new academic year and the second Wednesday in February.
The totals from the fall and previous winter counts are blended and the fall count is weighted more heavily. This is known as the blended count system.
The blended count total involves weighting the fall count at 90 percent and the winter count at 10 percent to reach a blended count total. The proportions of the blended county system have changed over the years, and were previously 80/20 and 75/25, for example.
After the fall count each year, school districts have five weeks to get a final enrollment number to their respective intermediate school district to be verified and audited.
The audited student head count figures typically become effective in mid-November. This reportedly helps the school districts get their state aid for students that enroll after the fourth-Wednesday head counts.
If a student is absent on a count day, there are a certain number of grace days that will allow the student to be counted as long as a procedure if followed.
Here’s a look at how the lakes area’s school districts fared during the recent fourth-Wednesday student head counts, which this year were held on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
WALLED LAKE CONSOLIDATED SCHOOLS
The Walled Lake Consolidated School District tallied 15,205 students during the Wednesday, Oct. 3 fall head count, down 313 students from the fall 2011 count and 284 from the district’s count in February, according to district spokeswoman Judy Evola.
Evola said the district follows the count process outlined by the Michigan Department of Education — having the teachers perform a count of the students at a designated time, while recording who is there and who isn’t. If a student is absent on count day, they must return to school within 30 days for the district to be able to count him or her.
The district tallied 15,518 students in the 2011 fall count; 15,463 students in the fall 2010 county; and 15,649 students in the 2009 fall count.
Based on the two student counts conducted this calendar year — tallies which make up the blended student count, which also includes students from Franklin Christian and the district’s Early Intervention program and Adult Education program — the district’s blended county enrollment is expected to be 15,289 students.
While student counts have gone down since last school year, the district’s state foundation grant allowance is expected to remain the same at $8,165 per student. That figure is down from the 2010-2011 school year by about $470, when it was $8,635 per student.
Unofficial counts are sent to the state, where an audit is performed. Official results are typically received in February or March.
Evola said that while the district has experienced a decline in enrollment, the budget process has already accounted for a portion of the decline.
“We don’t anticipate having to cut back on spending during the current fiscal year (due to the results of the student counts),” she said.
HURON VALLEY SCHOOLS
In Huron Valley Schools, the blended count (a combination of the Oct. 3 county and last February’s count) was reported at 9,857 full-time equivalent (FTE) students, 93 fewer than the district’s blended count at this time last year.
FTE counts are what is reported to the state for purposes of per-pupil foundation allowance funding. Full-time equivalency refers to the actual time that a child is in the district. There are instances when special education students, for example, are only in the district for a portion of the day, which can equate to a fraction in numbers.
The district verifies the enrollment of students who were absent on the count day, including tracking students who were attending an event off-site or attending a program such as vocational or college courses.
Preliminary weekly counts started on Sept. 14 in preparation for the final fall count on Oct. 3. Counts are collected at the building level, which collects the counts per classroom.
The student count figure as of Oct. 3 was 9,944 FTE students. Last year at this time it was reported at 9,947.
There has been a trend of declining enrollment in the district over the last six years.
In 2007-08, the student count was 10,512.33 FTE students. The following academic year, 2008-09, that figure shrunk to 10,359.9 FTE students. In 2009-10, it again dipped to 10,284.87 FTE students. In 2010-11, it fell again to 10,121.10 FTE students, and last school year, 2011-12, the district reported 9,950.49 FTE students.
Per-pupil funding is based in part on student attendance on count days. The per-pupil foundation allowance is $6,966 this year compared to $6,948 per-pupil last year.
“We are cautious in terms of what (the student count day figure) means from a revenue standpoint because of the uncertainty of whether the retirement rate will be adjusted,” said Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Donna Welch.
While enrollment is still down in Huron Valley, the district budgeted accordingly.
“The loss is less than we projected and equates to approximately $641,000 in additional state aid,” Welch said.
According to Waterford Schools Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Tom Wiseman and Director of Finance and Budget William Holbrook, the district’s fall student count figure on Oct. 3 was 10,855 students.
That number is down from the February 2012 count of 11,147 students, giving the district a blended count this year of 10,884 FTE students.
The blended student count for the 2011-12 school year was 11,055 FTE students, while the blended count in 2010-11 was 11,287 FTE students.
The district had a blended count of 11,381 FTE students in 2009-10 and the blended count in 2008-09 was 11,403 FTE students. The blended count in 2007-08 was 11,433.26 FTE students.
District officials added that Waterford’s per-pupil foundation grant allowance for the current school year is currently $7,175 per pupil.
Wiseman and Holbrook added that the latest figures and current per-pupil foundation grant allowance would not require the district to whittle back spending for the current school year.
The Waterford Schools Board of Education at its June 7 meeting approved the district’s budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
General Fund revenue for the year was projected at $103.51 million. With $6.23 million projected to be in the fund balance on July 1, the district was projected to have just shy of $109.75 million available to appropriate for the 2012-13 academic year.
Meanwhile, expenditures for the this school year were projected to be $104.48 million.
WEST BLOOMFIELD SCHOOLS
According to West Bloomfield Schools Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator Pamela Zajac, the district had an unofficial fall count of 6,328 students on Oct. 3, which is down from February’s count of 6,596.57 FTE students. The district counted 6,603 students at this time last year.
Zajac said that the student count is tabulated by teachers taking attendance during the day and reporting the count to their school’s office, which then reports those figures to pupil accounting.
“All principals obtain the information equally. Our pupil accounting office processes all of the information,” Zajac said.
If a registered student is absent due to illness, there is a grace period so that when they return they can be added to the count.
Zajac added that the district’s per-pupil foundation grant allowance for the current school year is $8,646, which is the same as last year’s figure.
West Bloomfield’s head count for 2011 was 6,744.42 FTE students in February and 6,604 in October, while the head count for 2010 was 6,880.84 FTE students in February and 6,788.64 in September.
The district’s head count for 2009 was 6,851.17 FTE students in February and 6,928.82 in September, while the 2008 head count was 6,693.7 FTE students in February and 6,846.71 in September.
West Bloomfield’s head count for September 2007 was 6,643.63 FTE students.
“We budgeted conservatively enough so that it would only have an impact on the end-of-year final budget, but this is premature to project. Other items may impact the final budget,” Zajac said.
The West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education approved the district’s budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which began on July 1, at its June 25 meeting.
General Fund revenue for 2012-13 was projected at $64.63 million, while expenditures were projected at $63.45 million, leaving a surplus of $1.17 million.
The district’s General Fund balance as of June 30 was projected at $419,154 and is expected to increase to $1.59 million by June 30, 2013, the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Then, the board at its Sept. 24 meeting voted to approve the closure of Ealy Elementary School in the fall of 2013, as recommended after a school enrollment and facilities use study by Shannon Bingham of Western Demographics.
In addition, the school board also unanimously approved the recommendation to convert Doherty Elementary School into a facility for students in kindergarten through second-grade and Sheiko Elementary into a building for students in third- through fifth-grade, with one set of attendance boundaries for both schools, beginning in the fall of 2013.
The board also decided in favor of the recommendation to consider studying the potential closure of Roosevelt Elementary School in a two- to five-year period, in addition to the possible future conversion of Abbott and Orchard Lake middle schools into buildings for students in fifth- through eighth-grade.
Total potential savings for the district under the consultants’ recommendations could total $725,000 a year.
The consultant’s preliminary report indicated that enrollment in the district has been declining in recent years and is projected to continue to do so.
Staff writers Kevin Elliott and Leslie Shepard contributed to this report.