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***Hutchinson MN: Enrollment declining; special education costs soaring

June 5, 2019, Hutchinson (MN) Leader: Hutchinson School Board stares down new budget cuts For the third year in a row, Hutchinson Public Schools may have to make cuts to keep its budget in line in the face of declining enrollment, inflation and growing expenses. At a quarterly meeting last week, board members were presented with $475,372 in cuts recommended by school administrators, which ranged from reducing class sections to reorganizing how student interventions are structured. The consideration follows nearly $500,000 in cuts made for the current school year, and nearly $1 million the year before. “We’re slowly declining in student enrollment,” said superintendent Daron VanderHeiden. Since the 2014-15 school year, enrollment has declined from roughly 2,900 to 2,800. It is projected to be at 2,734 next year… More students are graduating than entering the district, despite the school attracting roughly the same ratio of children. The trouble stems from lower birthrates in the county, which reflect a statewide trend over the past 10 years…. …The Board will have to decide if it will ask voters to renew the local tax, and if it will ask for a larger amount to offset budget demands in the face of inflation. Enrollment isn’t the only factor weighing on the school’s annual budget. … Another major factor in the school’s budget is the cost to support its special education services. In the 2014-15 school year, special education cost $4.1 million in the district. In the 2017-18 school year, it cost $6 million. State and federal subsidies offset that amount but have not kept up. In the 2017-18 school year, the school pitched in $2.5 million from its budget, up from $1.4 million in 2014-15. “We’re not blaming special education students. They need the services,” VanderHeiden said. “It comes down to the aid formula. The state and federal government aren’t paying for special education the way they should and someone has to pay for it.” …

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