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Schools growth rate is flat

Michael Schneider

Despite beliefs that the county is expanding at a phenomenal rate, the school district’s budget for the next academic year will be tailored toward an expectation of no growth, Douglas County School District Director of Business Services Rick Kester said Thursday

Kester said that the district planned for a growth of 200 students this year, an estimate which he considered conservative at the time as the district grew by more than that last year. As enrollment tallies were counted this year, the school district found that they overestimated by 199.

Kester said the district estimates money for the annual budget based on the projection of how many students it believes will attend county schools. Because of the overestimate, Kester said the school district’s budget is off about $732,000 for this year.

Due to the budget shortfall, Kester said a hiring freeze will be placed on school district positions.

He said there is no threat of the district having to lay off any teachers as it typically has about a 5 percent teacher turnover rate.

“Our revenue is not in line with our expenditures,” said Kester. “It’s a problem and not a crisis.”

Kester said the district must plan for no growth next year, even though that may be unlikely, as two years of overestimating in a row might lead to a crisis.

“We can’t afford to have this happen again so soon,” he said.

Kester said that it’s anybody’s guess as to why the school district didn’t grow this year, but he believes it’s a combination of factors.

Kester said that 80 11th graders didn’t become 12th graders this year, more than twice the average. Also, two times as many students moved out of the district than the average.

He said that these factors, coupled with more home schooling, a stronger economy in California preventing a continued exodus into Nevada, and last year’s miserable winter in this region certainly contributed to a lack of growth in the area.

“But they’re still building in Douglas County,” said Kester. “I don’t think it’s stopping growth.”

Kester said that the growth trends around the state were down almost everywhere, not just in Douglas County.

“Churchill (County) grew less,” he said. “Carson City grew 1 percent less than last year at 3 percent and not 4 percent, and Washoe (County) only grew 3 percent.”

Kester said that while the situation is not a crisis, it will affect school district budget projections in the future as well as next year.

“It will take a lot more growth than it would have to get it back to where it was,” he said. “If there’s no change, in a few years we’ll be graduating bigger classes than we’re bringing in.”

Kester said that despite realigning budget projections in the future and the hiring freeze, the lack of growth is not necessarily negative for the school district. He said that the district has been struggling to keep up with the booming growth in the county and could use some time to catch up.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Pendery Clark spoke about the hiring freeze.

“There will be no positions that will be automatically filled,” said Clark. “We will fill what needs to be, but combining jobs and reducing hours is a possibility.

“We expect to be OK after next year.”