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Lower enrollment forces district to return state funds

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

The Lee County School District’s full-time equivalent numbers are in, and as a result of lower enrollment this year, the district will have to send $12.3 million back to the state from its contingency fund, used for emergency situations such as storms or unexpected repairs.

Each year the school district receives funding from the Department of Education based on its FTE numbers.

This year, district officials asked that as many students as possible attend school from Oct. 13-17, nicknamed “FTE Week,” so that the county would not lose funding.

For each enrolled student this year, the school district receives $3,971.71, which is a decrease of $108 from the year before. Other students, coded as ESE or at-risk, would receive more funding.

District spokesperson Joe Donzelli asked parents to forego vacations or planned trips during FTE Week so the counts would be high, and the effort paid off allowing the district to hold onto $700,000.

This year’s FTE numbers were 78,947, said Donzelli, which was almost 2,800 students less than the state’s model. In projecting students earlier this year, the district chose a model that was lower than what the state recommended.

Donzelli added that the FTE numbers will be analyzed throughout the week by the district and state, and could change.

Also, the district set aside $13 million in anticipation for the FTE numbers. He said the remaining $700,000 in the contingency fund will not be spent.

“It stays right where it is because we don’t know what will come down the pipe,” said Donzelli.

There will be another FTE count taken in February and, according to projections, the district will have to fork over another $6 million to the state.

“Our second count projection will be as close as the first,” said Donzelli.

Later this year the state could also demand that public agencies such as school districts, hospitals or police departments give back a share of their budgets. In 2007, Lee County schools had to give back $16 million.

“I don’t know if that will happen this year, but there is a possibility that it could,” he said.