Enrollment still down at county schools

Now into the third month of the 2012-2013 school year, Fayette County schools are reporting enrollment of 20,463 students and have lost only 213 students compared to the same time last year.

To say the current enrollment figure could be worse is a matter of perspective: Fayette has lost approximately 2,000 students in the past few years.

The figures for the third month of this year show an enrollment drop in elementary, middle and high schools. Those decreases include a loss of 85 students in the county’s elementary schools, a loss of 36 students in middle schools and a decrease of 92 students in county’s five high schools.

The schools losing the greatest number of students over last year include Whitewater High School with 88 fewer students, followed by Whitewater Middle School with 72 fewer students.

Also losing significant numbers were Fayette County High School And Brooks Elementary School, both losing 61 students in the past year.

Brooks has a capacity of 488 students, putting it at approximately 50 percent capacity, which is the lowest capacity rating of any Fayette County school.

But the figures show that some schools have increased enrollment. Cleveland Elementary School in its third month tally added 41 students, while Oak Grove Elementary added 33, Booth Middle School added 27 and Crabapple Elementary School added 26 students.

Perhaps not always recognized is that enrollment numbers fluctuate during the school year, especially in the first month or two of the school year. Case in point, Fayette’s enrollment near the end of the first week of school in August totaled 19,988 students. But by mid-November that number had increased to 20,463.

Yet over the past few years the enrollment numbers have trended downward. It is likely without coincidence that the loss of approximately 2,000 students has occurred during the years of the recession that, at least locally, has not ended. And with the continuing recession has come a large decrease in the tax digest, the dollar value of all real and personal property. Fayette County just this year alone lost 10.39 percent of the taxable value of property.

The decrease in the tax digest is directly linked to property tax revenues that fund approximately 50 percent of the school system’s general fund budget. The other half of the revenue pie comes from state funds to the tune of approximately $4,000 per student. And that is where decreases in enrollment come into play with the loss of state funds.