Demographer Projects Potential Enrollment Decline

Pie chart depicting 86.4% of total payroll alllocated to campus staff and district support staff, 1.6% allocated for district administration, and 12% allocated for operational costs

At the Feb. 16 regular meeting, RISD trustees continued 2023-24 budget planning discussions, beginning with the annual update of demographic projections.

The 2023 demographic update was provided by Davis Demographics. Overall, if current factors that impact enrollment remain unchanged, the update projects a decrease of approximately 4,000 resident students over the next five years. According to the Texas Commissioner of Education, overall school enrollment in Texas is expected to decline over the next decade, primarily due to lower birth rates.

Other current factors that could impact RISD enrollment projections include current economic conditions and the high cost of housing, both single and multi-family, which can impact a family’s ability to afford a residence within RISD. As a landlocked district that is primarily built out, RISD is not projected to receive substantial numbers of additional resident students through current new housing development projects.

“This demographic update is an important one for RISD, and it’s something we need to carefully consider,” said Superintendent Tabitha Branum.  “If these projections eventually prove accurate, we are looking at potentially significant impacts to our budget, district, and school operations if we don’t consider more steps to attract and retain additional students.”

Under the Texas school finance system, student enrollment is the primary factor that determines school district revenue. Previous budget planning discussions so far have also identified a need for RISD to attract and retain additional students. RISD commissions an annual demographic update to assist with long term decisions related to enrollment, budget planning, facilities, and programming.

“As we have seen over the years, these are projections and not set in stone,” said Branum. “Yet to me it is another indicator that we as a district must consider innovative programs and steps to not only retain our current families, but encourage additional families to choose RISD.”

Trustees then reviewed information presented by Assistant Supt. of Finance David Pate, which included 2023-24 budget challenges related to reduced funding, excess district campus capacity, a larger staffing model, and ongoing efforts to remain competitive to recruit and retain quality teachers and staff. Other key points of the presentation included:

  • RISD’s projected operating budget deficit has been revised to $23.7 million, down from $25.9 million when the current 2022-23 budget was adopted in June, 2022.
  • Public school enrollment is projected to drop nationally over the next 8 years, according to national data.
  • While RISD’s enrollment has dropped since the start of the pandemic, overall full time staffing levels have not dropped. The expiration of ESSER-funded (federal pandemic relief funding) positions are expected to reduce RISD staffing levels starting in 2023-24.
  • Due to enrollment decreases since the beginning of the pandemic, RISD elementary campuses collectively have significant excess capacity, with additional excess capacity projected once the district completes the transition to the middle school model.
  • At 455 students, the average PK-5 enrollment size of RISD elementary campuses would be the lowest among the 22 peer benchmark and competing districts. This is an indicator that RISD’s current model of 40 elementary campuses serving the district’s 18,200 PK-5 students is among the least efficient models among benchmark and competing districts. For example, Frisco ISD has a similar number of elementary campuses (42), that serve almost 27,000 PK-5 students.
  • The Basic Allotment, the per-student funding level provided by the state of Texas to school districts, has not increased for four consecutive years. During that time, the cost of school district expenses like teacher salaries, energy, fuel, and other materials needed to operate schools, has increased significantly. RISD is encouraging the Texas legislature to consider increasing the Basic Allotment during the current legislative session.

Click here to watch the Feb. 16 budget planning discussion. The district and trustees will continue 2023-24 budget planning at future meetings through the anticipated budget adoption in June.

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