More on Milford School Enrollment Decline

Some have said that the article I wrote today about declining enrollment in Milford schools is unclear. I apologize if you feel that way because I always try to state things as plainly as possible. So, here’s the raw data on the enrollment situation in Milford.

According to state figures, here’s a decade of Milford enrollment:

2001-02…………………………………………………………7,368
2002-03…………………………………………………………7,455
2003-04…………………………………………………………7,525
2004-05…………………………………………………………7,525
2005-06…………………………………………………………7,569
2006-07…………………………………………………………7,504
2007-08…………………………………………………………7,384
2008-09…………………………………………………………7,303
2009-10…………………………………………………………7,135
2010-11…………………………………………………………6,958
2011-12…………………………………………………………6,794
2012-13…………………………………………………………6,560
2013-14…………………………………………………………6,364 (projected)

As you can see, the downward trend began in the 2006-07. If you do the arithmetic, here are the total gains/losses:

2001-02…………………………………………………………
2002-03…………………………………………………………+87
2003-04…………………………………………………………+70
2004-05…………………………………………………………0
2005-06…………………………………………………………+44
2006-07…………………………………………………………-65
2007-08…………………………………………………………-120
2008-09…………………………………………………………-81
2009-10…………………………………………………………-168
2010-11…………………………………………………………-177
2011-12…………………………………………………………-164
2012-13…………………………………………………………-234
2013-14…………………………………………………………-196 (projected)

The average loss/gain per year since declines began in 06/07: 150.6

Net loss since 2001-02 school years: 1,004

Some – including me – have asked the question why school budgets continue to increase if student enrollment is declining. The answer is not as simple as fewer students = smaller budget.

Rising personnel costs drive increases in most municipal budgets these days. I think it would be pretty reductive to say, “Hey, there are fewer students, so we should just fire all the excess teachers.”

Consider that class sizes in Milford have increased over the decade. Milford began 2002 with an average high school class size (the state keeps data for other selected grades, but I’ll use HS here as an example) of 18.7, below the state average of around 20. While that state average has decreased since then, Milford’s high school class size has risen, and has been above the state average since 2004-05.

Anecdotally, parents and teachers like smaller classes, because there’s the appearance that students can get more individualized attention. And some scientific studies (Project STAR) have found that smaller classes produce better achieving students.

So, maybe you don’t want to eliminate teachers until those average class sizes come below state average. One important point: the state hasn’t provided data for the last two school years, so class sizes might’ve fallen. However, Milford is projecting that class sizes will increase at five of the eight elementary schools (JFK, Orange Avenue, Calf Pen, Meadowside, and Orchard Hills) this school year.

Now, let’s take a look at actual budget increases. Here they are for the last few years according to the district:

2010-11…………………………………………………………$83,228,305 (expended)
2011-12…………………………………………………………$85,459,591 (expended)
2012-13…………………………………………………………$86,882,363 (adopted)
2013-14…………………………………………………………$88,843,283 (proposed)

Total increase between 2010-11 and 2013-14: $5,614,978

Here’s a budget summary so you can see where the increases occurred:

Total salaries
                2010-11: $60,181,302
                2013-14: $64,433,420
                                Total increase: $4,252,118

Total benefits
                2010-11: $4,354,916
                2013-14: $4,870,224
                                Total increase: $515,308

Total contracted services
                2010-11: $1,974,849
                2013-14: $1,817,363
                                Total increase: -$157,486

Total facilities
                2010-11: $4,962,730
                2013-14: $4,346,734
                                Total increase: -$615,996

Total transportation
                2010-11: $4,256,106
                2013-14: $4,647,467
                                Total increase: $391,361

Total other support
                2010-11: $1,141,435
                2013-14: $1,094,989
                                Total increase: -$46,446

Total tuition
                2010-11: $2,772,361
                2013-14: $3,313,462
                                Total increase: $541,101

Total educational supplies and equipment
                2010-11: $3,066,522
                2013-14: $3,416,222
                                Total increase: $349,700

Total other educational support
                2010-11: $518,084
                2013-14: $286,289
                                Total increase: -$231,795

So, salaries have obviously driven the increases, 75 percent to be exact. But, if you read the district’s budget summary for this year, administrators say that the major drivers of this year’s budget increases are 1) adoption of Common Core Standards, 2) school safety improvements, and 3) new state-mandated teacher and administrator evaluations

What can you conclude from all these these numbers? That the district is overstaffed for its size? That they pay too well? Well, Milford does pay above the state average, but the average salary is less than neighboring Stratford and Wallingford – and Stratford’s CAPT test scores are lower than Milford’s.

I think it’s really hard to conclude much except that the district is shrinking and personnel costs rise. Teachers still need yearly raises (really they do, just like any worker does). I am definitely looking forward to what suggestions the Long Range Planning Committee comes up deal with these issues – it could be anything, I suppose, from eliminating teacher positions to closing buildings. Who knows?

I would strongly advise anyone who’s interested in the future of the Milford School District to attend these committee meetings. Meeting minutes, agendas, and dates are right here.

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