Lakeshore student numbers trending up

STEVENSVILLE — The number of students attending Lakeshore Public Schools is slightly higher than predicted, Superintendent Phil Freeman told trustees Monday during their first meeting of the new school year.

The school district budgeted for 2,770 students to attend Lakeshore schools, a decrease from last year’s count of 2,785 students. But so far, he said it looks like 2,788 students are attending Lakeshore this year.

“That will all come down to what those numbers are ... on our Wednesday count day coming up in October,” he said.

This year’s first student count day is Oct. 2, with the spring count day on Feb. 12. Michigan funds public schools based on the number of students in attendance on the count days, with 90 percent of state funding coming from the fall count and 10 percent from the spring count.

Lakeshore received $7,871 per student from the state last school year.

Freeman said it is unknown how much money school districts will receive this school year because state officials have yet to pass a budget. He said local school officials projected that there would be a $180 increase in per pupil payments, which would increase the amount of money Lakeshore received per student to $8,051.

He said that number was chosen because it was the lowest between the state House, state Senate and governor’s budget proposals.

“We’re hopeful that we can get to that number minimally, but I certainly would be excited if we got closer to the governor’s budget that recognizes the cost of educating some of our special children, whether it’s special education, our at-risk students because of socio-economic status or children that are in programs that cost more money like our CTE programs,” he said. 

The deadline for state officials to approve a budget is Sept. 30.

“It’s coming up in an awful hurry,” Freeman said. “I hope there’s no rush to make a decision and come up on the cheap end of that. I’m hoping that they make a thoughtful decision and that they use the money in the School Aid Fund for K-12 education and quit pushing some of that money out to ... post-secondary education as they have in their other budgets.”

Freeman said state officials could pass a continuation budget, meaning there would be no increase in the amount the district receives per student.

He said the school district’s audit shows that the district is in a better financial situation than anticipated, so the district could weather that.

“But if they’re kicking the can down the road and we don’t get an increase in our budget anytime soon, all of that will be eaten up in our cash flow,” he said.

During the audit presentation, Matthew Kelly from Plante Moran said the district received an unmodified, or clean, opinion with no findings.

He said the district spends almost 66 percent of its money on instruction, with another 30 percent on support services, which includes guidance counselors and transportation.

In addition, he said the district receives 80 percent of its revenue from the state.

Freeman said the district does a good job of focusing money on the classroom.

“We put our money into our kids,” he said. “I’m very proud of the fact that our administrative costs are among some of the lowest in the state of Michigan.”

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege