With a major increase in student population on the way, growth is a major focus of Oregon School District planning. So when the district approved its latest “Five-Year” plan earlier this spring, it’s no surprise that managing growth was a main topic.
The plan is essentially an enrollment and revenue forecast, as in Wisconsin, public school district enrollment is the main determinant of state funding, and determines 94 percent of the OSD’s general fund budget. District business manager Andy Weiland said it provides an outlook for the fiscal situation the district will be working in for the foreseeable future and is updated by him and administrative staff to adapt to changing conditions, such as state budget fluctuations.
The plan includes two different scenarios for growth in the 2018-19 school year; 10 percent and 15 percent, along with the associated state funding. It also sets enrollment projections for all district schools in the next five years, giving school officials an opportunity to plan for new buildings, or to shift students as needed.
Weiland said the fall referendum was not included in this year’s five-year planning process, which was completed earlier this year.
“The detail work is done on a year-to-year basis as the individual school year budgets are built,” he wrote. “The five-year plan helps determine the general environment that they will be built on.”
Weiland answered a few questions last month about the district’s latest five-year-plan, approved March 12, and what district officials view as challenges and opportunities for the next few years:
Observer: How does the district’s coming “growth spurt” affect the five-year plan?
Weiland: (District consultant Mark Roffer’s) report showed significant more growth than we have experienced for quite some time. The rate of growth is the challenge we will be working with over the next five years and perhaps beyond. Although it may at times be difficult to manage the growth, it is a good challenge to have. We are very fortunate to be in an area in the state that people are moving to. With growth challenges come new opportunities for our students.
Observer: What are the biggest challenges for the district in the next five years?
Weiland: Working through the changes that come with a growing school district and attempting to negotiate the uncertainty of the state budget process every two years. Also, it takes three years for the state to factor new student growth into the revenue limits of Wisconsin school districts. That means that new expenses will impact the district when students arrive but the district can only count 1/3 of the students in the year those services need to be delivered. This creates a funding lag that, depending on the rate of growth, can be difficult to manage the first year or two of a large influx of students.
Observer: How are finances looking, and why?
Weiland: They are looking pretty stable because of the increased students we are anticipating.
Observer: What are the main takeaways about the plan you’d like residents to know?
Weiland: In Wisconsin, 94 percent of a school district’s main operating fund, the General Fund is determined by the number of students that district has. We are growing district so that means additional fiscal resources will be available to educate the additional students that are projected to arrive.