Fort Worth ISD will likely lose $23.8 million in state funding next school year as enrollment is projected to drop for the sixth year in a row, according to recently released numbers.
Next school year, district officials estimate 72,981 students will be enrolled in Fort Worth ISD. That is a 1,869-student loss from the 2021-22 school year.
The school board learned about the slip during a presentation on the district’s next budget at its May 24 meeting. The projections are used to form the base of the 2022-23 school year budget.
Over the past six years, Fort Worth ISD has lost nearly 14,447 students. Since 2010, the number of people who live in Fort Worth ISD has grown by 10%. The 2020 census pegged the district’s population at 513,333. A decade ago, that number was 466,910.
Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, the district’s chief financial officer, described the enrollment projections as conservative.
“It’s hard to imagine it would go down any further,” Arrieta-Candelaria told trustees.
Recent trends showing better attendance in the past few months of the current school year and more students enrolled in pre-kindergarten classes are encouraging, the CFO said.
“We do have some positive indication that our enrollment will stabilize somewhat,” Arrieta-Candelaria said.
A combination of factors likely has contributed to the enrollment drop. The COVID-19 pandemic played a role, but so has parents deciding to pull their children out of Fort Worth ISD into other schools.
In the new school year, Fort Worth ISD is planning to use more than $40.3 million of its fund balance to cover its spending. The district’s preliminary budget calls for an estimated $819.5 million in expenditures. Revenues are expected to be $779.1 million.
The starting fund balance is almost $281.4 million. The ending fund balance is projected to be $241 million.
Officials expect the district’s 2022-23 property tax rate to be $1.05, the current rate. Higher property appraisals likely means Fort Worth ISD taxpayers will have higher property tax bills. The preliminary assessed property value in Fort Worth ISD is $51.7 billion — an almost 17% increase from 2021.
Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, the district’s chief financial officer, stressed to trustees these figures are not the proposed budget they will consider adopting at their June 28 meeting. Trustees are expected to get a deep dive into the next budget during a workshop meeting on June 14.
In Texas, school districts receive state funding based on their average daily attendance and enrollment. A declining enrollment means fewer dollars from the state. Districts also have two other funding sources: Local property taxes and federal funds. In Fort Worth ISD’s current budget, local revenue accounts for 62.5%, state funding is 31.7% and federal funds is 5.8%.
For next year, Arrieta-Candelaria estimated around 87.1% of all enrolled students will attend classes every day. That would mean on any given day 63,764 students will be in class.
In the 2021-22 school year, 65,213 students attended classes on a daily basis, according to the district.
Fort Worth ISD expects to receive $260.9 million in state funding for the 2022-23 school year general fund budget.
Trustee Camile Rodriguez questioned whether the district’s staff has followed the downward trend of its student enrollment.
“With lower enrollment, you would think staffing would decrease,” she said.
Arrieta-Candelaria told Rodriguez administrators are seeing staffing numbers drop. She did not detail the numbers to trustees. Rodriguez asked for the CFO to give trustees a report on staffing figures.
“It needs to decrease in association with the student decrease. We shouldn’t have the same number of teachers or support staff if we have less students,” Rodriguez said.
The number of overall staff and teachers in Fort Worth ISD have seen fluctuations in the past decade, according to Texas Education Agency data. However, they remained somewhat stagnant.
Board President Tobi Jackson also asked for additional information on the district’s enrollment decline. She asked Arrieta-Candelaria to provide a campus enrollment and attendance breakdown.
“I believe this board needs to know which campuses are underperforming in attendance,” Jackson said.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.