Lawrence school district expects $1 million budget shortfall for current school year; board to hear budget report Monday

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

The Lawrence school district is expecting a shortfall of $1 million this school year because of a recent enrollment drop, and school board members will soon learn more about how the district’s budget could be affected.

During its meeting Monday, the Lawrence school board will hear a budget report from Kathy Johnson, the district’s finance director, who will explain how the enrollment drop might affect the school district’s current and future budgets.

According to a presentation included in the meeting agenda, the district expects that for the 2020-2021 school year, it will receive $1.87 million less than it had projected in state funding, which is dictated by student enrollment numbers. However, an increase in enrollment at the district’s virtual school helped soften the district’s overall shortfall. According to the presentation, the virtual school enrollment could provide the district about $870,000 of additional revenue, meaning the district would have a net shortfall of $1 million.

As the Journal-World previously reported, the district saw a decrease of more than 300 students this fall compared to the year before.

In September, the district’s annual enrollment count saw a decrease of 589 students in K-12 buildings, according to recent enrollment data. But the virtual school saw an increase of 264 students this school year. When the virtual school was factored in, the district as a whole saw enrollment fall by 325 students, or about 2.8%, the Journal-World has reported.

The enrollment decrease will have effects on the budget in subsequent years, as well. The Journal-World previously estimated the enrollment decrease could cost the district up to $1.5 million for the 2021-2022 school year. However, the district will have options provided by state law to help soften the blow.

One of those options is to use the enrollment numbers from the year prior, which in Lawrence featured a smaller enrollment drop — a decrease of 182 students — than this year. According to the presentation, the district appears to be planning to use that method and anticipates it will see a decrease of $1.15 million next school year compared to what it planned in the current school year budget.

The school board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday for a work session and regular meeting through an online conference call. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district encourages the public to watch the meeting on Midco channel 26 or online at youtube.com/USD497.

Those who want to speak during public comments at the meeting can still do so. The district asks for comments to be sent by email to PatronCommentary@usd497.org by 6 p.m. the day of the meeting. Comments can also be emailed to board members ahead of the meeting. Their contact information is available on the district’s website at usd497.org/Board.


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