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Oct. 1 is a significant date for Iowa public schools. It is known as official count day. It is the day that is used to determine the certified enrollments for schools in the state.
It is the number that the 2019-2020 state aid will be based upon. It is a number that the district will begin to build their budget for the next school year. It is a key figure used for negotiations with teacher bargaining units. It has a significant impact on property taxes and in determining staffing for the next school year.
It is a very important day.
The 2018-2019 per pupil state funding is $6,736. When the Iowa legislators go into session after the first of the year, they will determine a percentage for public school funding increases.
For example, if that figure is 1 percent, that means the per pupil figure would grow by 1 percent, which in this example would be $6,803, a growth of $67 per student. A growth of 1 percent to 2 percent per year has become the normal in recent years. For several years the public schools in Iowa were seeing 4 percent increases on an annual basis.
The impact on the school budget is affected by whether or not the number of students grows, stays the same or decreases.
Let’s take a school that has 800 students as an example. Those 800 students would generate $5,388,800 in revenue. A 1 percent growth figure – if the number of students would remain the same – would be an increase of $53,600.
A 20-student increase in a school year with a 1 percent growth would mean an increased revenue figure of $189,660.
A loss of 20 students results in a negative $82,460, even though the state aid per student increased. Student population growth and losses have more of an impact on a school district’s budget than any other factor.
This doesn’t take into account the additional impact on the School Local Option Sales Tax money, which also is driven by student enrollment.
The state collects the 1 cent sales tax across the state and divides it up on a per student ratio. The more students, the more a school district receives.
Local Option Sales Tax dollars are only used for facility and technology needs for a district. It cannot be used to pay salaries or operating expenses.
Even though Oct. 1 is the official count day, it generally takes a school district two weeks to finalize its enrollment numbers. There is a segment of our population that is somewhat transient and people move on short notice.
All students are identified by a code, and it is not unusual to have a student show up in more than one district. School districts are notified when this happens, and a district of residence is determined based on where they were in attendance on Oct. 1.
I have seen situations where a student was in class in one district on the morning of the Oct. 1 and in attendance in another district in the afternoon.
Preschool students, special needs students, students receiving English language learning instruction, and students taking college courses all receive different levels of funding.
As of Oct. 1, the district has to calculate all these weightings and factor them into their enrollment figures as well. You have to verify open enrollment in and out numbers with other districts.
Preliminary numbers for Highland look to be stable for this year. It is not anticipated that there will be a drop, and we hope based on what we have seen in the elementary that there is potential for a positive number. The long-range forecast for this area is continued and steady growth with lots of new housing going up in the district.