It’s that time of the year again. Classes at Trego School started on Wednesday, September 1st. The Back to School BBQ will be held on Friday, September 10th.
School enrollment at the start of the school year is nearing 30 students. With a fourth classroom teacher hired, class size averages about 7 students per class (7.25 to be more precise).
The district was able to use part of the district’s ESSR (covid relief funds) to fund the hiring of that fourth teacher, a decision made to help keep class sizes small. While classrooms are still multi-grade, most classrooms hold only two grades.
The official count for this year’s enrollment isn’t actually in- for funding purposes, the count happens only twice a year. The first is in October. If enrollment reaches thirty, the amount of funding the school receives will increase.
Looking at the broader trend, we last discussed Trego School enrollment back in January.
This year’s start of 29 is a bit lower than January’s 31. Not a steep decline, but the trend merits watching.
Since the state was kind enough to go through every K12 school in the state (back in 2008) and evaluate the condition of the buildings, there’s a fair bit of information to play with.
The general facts- as taken from the Facilities Condition Inventory.
Year Constructed (according to the state’s report)
Renewal Cost (estimate as of 2008)
Trego School (the school building proper, including the portable classrooms on the East end)
Bus Equipment Shed
Fuel Storage Unit
While it might seem a bit odd that the last two are exactly the same- since the complaint (paint peeling) was identical, the identical deficiency ratios and renewal costs make some sense.
Evidently, then, the problem was (and given the comparatively low costs of the other repairs, surely still is) the school itself, with a deficiency ratio of 30.1%. With the report estimating the total cost of repairs of the school building at $594,743, the school board will have to prioritize the necessary repairs (surely some of them have been addressed since 2008).
Many of the complaints in the report were reasonably straight forward; Windows should be double paned rather than single and window frames should have thermal breaks. Simple, though the renewal cost is quite spendy ($86,107 in total for windows). Another big ticket item is the two “portable” classrooms on the east side of the school. The report observed “Floor sagging or showing other similar such failure”, and estimated $88,058 to renew.
While the school board did pass a permissive levy which will amount to around $25,500, that’s not going to be sufficient for some of the costlier repairs the school is going to need. With the budget tight (enrollment has gone up, but the funding received from the state is based on a three year average), the school board is going to have to prioritize spending very carefully.
Enrollment at Trego School continues to rise, in defiance of the historical trend. For the last few decades, school enrollment has been fairly steadily dropping. How low did enrollment actually get? The lowest official ANB (Average Number Belonging -i.e. the official state count of students) that I can find is seven, in the spring of the 2018-2019 school year. Enrollment actually continued to decline after that date, but didn’t make the official state count which is used to determine the district’s funding.
The most recent data, using the spring and fall ANB count provided by the state looks like this:
Number of Students
Official ANB for Trego School, data from Montana Office of Public Instruction
This data for this school year (2020-2021) isn’t available from the state yet, so the best way to find out about enrollment is to call the school and ask. Back in November, we reported the exciting news that enrollment was up to 23 students and we shared the following graph which incorporated that data.
Now, enrollment is up from January’s 26, to a total of 31 students. A 35% increase from November of 2020. This fall, Trego school optimistically began with three teachers. Now, with 31 students the average class size is slightly over 10. The school has been working to improve its enrollment, and has seen an amazing turn around. Even if we use the lowest official ANB number (which is decidedly higher than the lowest number the school reached), the school has more than quadrupled enrollment in the past two years.
Well done, Trego School. Where will you go from here?
The last school board meeting had the announcement of 3 more students this semester. That’s an increase from 23 students to 26, or a 13% increase in enrollment since Fall. School enrollment remains something to be watched closely, given the previous trend.
The increased enrollment fit with reading the Budget Amendment Resolution
the trustees have determined that an amendment to the state elementary fund budget in the amount of $25,584.05 is necessary . . . for the purpose of properly maintaining and supporting the district due to an increase in enrollment that was beyond what could reasonably have been anticipated at the time of the adoption of the budget for the current school fiscal year; and the anticipated source of financing the budget amendment expenditures shall be additional state assistance through direct state aid.”
The second financial decision was to direct the clerk to establish a permissive levy for a building reserve fund. The basis for the building reserve fund shared with the board members was:
Permissive levy in Sub Fund 613 which includes:
1. State Major Maintenance Aid (SMMA) SMMA amount is $15,000 + $100xprior year ANB (22) = $17,200
2. Permissive Levy which can’t exceed 10.000 mills per fiscal year (a mill is 1/1000 of taxable value (TV/1000) Taxable valuation for the district in 2021 is $1,932,429. 1,932,429/1000 = $1931 mill x 10 = $19,310 Tax impact on property: levied mills x property’s taxable value/1000 Districts must first levy 10 mills and then can budget non-levy revenues or legal transfers (some restrictions apply) Need to look into if we can transfer from a non budgeted fund (15) to building reserve.
3. The projects must be listed and the priority for projects are listed on the Facility Condition Report under their deficiency categories. Those need addressed first. “
A few translations: The state is willing to give aid that can be used for maintenance. The amount will be $15,000 plus the prior year’s enrollment (22) multiplied by $100. Thus, $15,000 + $2,200 = $17,200 that can be expected from the state.
Permissive levy- this is a levy that does not require a vote by the public. In this instance, MCA 20-9-502 allows a school board to impose no more than a 10 mill level per fiscal year to go towards the building reserve. The school expects to get $19,310 out of this.
What this actually means for your taxes? School district 53’s market value is assessed at $114,462,957. The taxable property value is set at $1,932,429 – a little less than 2% of the market value. Consequently, the math is 10 x taxable value/1000 – if your taxable value is $1000, the additional tax will be $10, if your taxable value is $10,000, the additional tax will be $100, and so on.
Lastly, anything they use that money for has to be on the Facility Condition Inventory and has to be addressed in order of priority. The Facility Condition Inventory comes via state inspection, so what to fix and in what order isn’t determined by anyone local. The most current Facility Condition Inventory that was available is dated 1/24/2008 – so it appears to be high time to look at getting some maintenance done.
Trego School will be receiving more funds from the state due to increased enrollment. While our school district has a relatively large tax base the local elementary school doesn’t see all of it. One set of our school taxes go to the state which then distributes them back based on enrollment. The intent is to equalize the amount of funding per student, so that more wealthy districts are not funded better than less wealthy ones.
Anyway, with an increase in enrollment our local elementary school was delighted to see a little bit more of that funding returned to the district. The district expects over 25,000$ due to the increased enrollment.
The amount the district receives is based on a three year average, and given the trend in Trego’s enrollment, that number has been trending downward.
Information about school enrollment is publicly available, but does require a bit of hunting. For school year’s ending 2014-2020 the data is available for each school in the state, organized by county. For year’s prior, it’s available via the GEMS system at OPI, but requires considerably more effort to fish out. The 2005-2006 data for the state can be found here.
As you can see, the 2019-2020 enrollment is a shift from a steadily downward trend. With school enrollment currently up to 23 students in 2020-2021, the school board is optimistic about reversing the trend.