New school year continues decreasing student enrollment trend

Kendra Crede/Correspondent

Principals of Mercer County School District (MCSD) 404 discussed early enrollment numbers at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year during the regular board of education meeting convened after an evening budget hearing on Sept. 14.

Principal Bill Fleuette said 328 students are enrolled at Apollo Elementary School, and principal Nancy Robinson recorded 198 students at New Boston Elementary School.

With two hundred students attending Mercer County Intermediate School, principal Doug Nelson stated that the six grade students have finished MAP testing, and the fifth grade students will begin this evaluation the week of Sept. 19.

MCJHS Principal Robert Reed counted enrollment at 204 students. “We have a good group of kids in the building,” he said, adding that the sports teams are “doing great,” the sewer project is near completion, and the faculty is developing RTI and aligning the curriculum with state core learning standards.

Enrollment at the MCHS, according to principal Gavin Sronce, is 389 students. These 2011-12 enrollment numbers reflect district attendance on the sixth school day.

Since 1991 the average decrease in student enrollment each year in the county schools has been 27 students, according to Superintendent Alan Boucher. He said, district-wide student enrollment in 2020 could conceivably reach numbers matching student enrollment in the former Aledo school district before consolidation. If this pattern continues, with no significant change to the state formula for funding education and other factors, the district will be challenged.

Concerns regarding the number of school buildings and their age were voiced by board members. Board president Doug Ball stated that board member Barb Chiles has started to research the history of the district’s buildings. This data will be used to determine what capital is needed for future construction and repairs.

Boucher reported that general state aid, influenced by student enrollment, has decreased by $500,000. “That’s one twenty-eighth of the district budget,” he said.

Before final budget approval by the board, Superintendent Boucher projected that while the district may not end the current school year with a surplus, it looks likely to finish in the black. He said, “We are trying hard not to depend on our cash reserves.” A week-old audit showed a 70-day cash on hand balance. “We want to build this to 90 days,” stated Boucher. He attributed the district’s positive financial situation to the helpfulness of his staff with no complaints about “tightening the belt,” he said.

With the teachers’ contract settled, this data has been inserted into the budget projections. An expense of $7.5 million dollars is expected to be paid in salaries with an additional $1.4 million dollars to be paid in benefits.

Responding to an inquiry by Chiles, who asked how many transportation payments are owed to the district, Boucher stated that $144,000 is expected to be received from the state this year for the previous year’s transportation costs.

The state of Illinois currently owes MCSD $195,000.

In other action the board voted to advertise sealed bids for snow plow removal at the three Aledo campuses.

Attending the meeting were MCSD Board of Education President Doug Ball, board members Dwight Shoemaker, Barb Chiles, Don Yates, Bill Smock, Marta Tucker, and superintendent Alan Boucher.