April 16 listening session; PSD cutting budgets due to declining enrollment

Poudre School District community:  

Heading into a week where members of our community may be attending Tuesday’s listening session with the school board centered on potential school consolidation and boundary adjustments, we know questions remain about the central motivating factors behind these discussions – enrollment and its impact on the district’s budget.  

Translations: Español Budget Update |  عربي Budget Update

When schools have fewer students, they require more funding to continue offering the same programs and services. Yet when enrollment drops, districts receive less funding to send to schools. These factors combined, along with others, create a problem that must be solved. 

What follows are facts about PSD’s budget challenges – not in the future, but today. If you only have a moment, key takeaways are listed below. Have more time? Read on, because the context is important, and watch Tuesday’s budget presentation to the board

Please note: Things may change as the state works to approve a school funding bill for 2024-25 this spring. PSD’s budget for the fiscal year 2024-25, which begins July 1, will be adopted in June 2024. 

Tuesday, April 16 board listening session info 

  • It is open to anyone in the public.  
  • 5:30-10 p.m. in the auditorium at Poudre High School, 201 S. Impala Drive, in Fort Collins.  
  • Speakers will have 90 seconds. The board will listen to as many people as possible until the end time of 10 p.m. 
  • Speakers do NOT need to sign up in advance. There is no RSVP for attendees. 
  • There will be interpretation services for those whose primary languages are Spanish or Arabic. ASL interpretation will also be provided. 

Tuesday, April 23 Board of Education meeting 

  • No new scenarios for potential changes to boundaries or school consolidations will be presented by the PSD Facilities Planning Steering Committee in its April 23 update to the school board at its scheduled board meeting.  
  • It is anticipated that updated scenarios developed by the Facilities Planning Steering Committee will be shared with the community around May 7, after which time, the community will have the opportunity to provide additional feedback via questionnaire. 
  • These updated scenarios will be presented to the Board of Education at their meeting on May 14.  
  • The final recommendations from the Facilities Planning Steering Committee regarding potential changes will be shared with the Board of Education on May 28 and it is anticipated that the Board will vote on these possible changes at its meeting on June 11. 

Key takeaways 

  • The problem is already here. Colorado Department of Education data show that PSD has more than 1,200 fewer students in our neighborhood and choice schools this year than we did in 2019-20. That equates to roughly $12 million less in school funding, at the current per-pupil funding amount. We need to solve this financial problem immediately to ensure our district’s long-term health and vitality. 
  • A combination of factors is contributing to decreased enrollment. Our community faces declining birth rates, increasing inflation, a lack of affordable housing, shifts in where families are moving and enrolling, and more.  
  • It doesn't make sense to isolate one factor in this complex challenge to doubt or blame – the results are indisputable: enrollment is unequivocally lower in our choice and neighborhood schools now than it was four years ago. It’s time to shift our focus to what families and our students are going to get out of the resulting changes to come. 
  • Needs are high. Even though PSD is predicted to have fewer students in 2024-25, the district is projected to get more state funding thanks to an anticipated nearly $700 increase in funding per student. Still, all schools and departments, including the central office, are cutting budgets to meet critical needs, including employee compensation, increased employer healthcare costs, higher utility and insurance costs, and more. School consolidations, along with other reductions being made across the district’s central offices and departments, will help address budget challenges. 
  • Student outcomes improve when all students have access to robust learning opportunities. This happens when we fully staff fewer schools and have more students together in those schools. We cannot continue spreading people and resources thinner and thinner across more schools with lower enrollments.  

Colorado state, PSD budget realities  

Each year, PSD balances a budget with the following priorities in mind: 

  • Literacy, Mental Health and Belonging, and Graduation with Options  
  • Declining enrollment  
  • Safety  
  • Competitive comp and benefits 
  • Healthy Meals for All and Universal PreK 

Meeting these priorities, especially when paired with inflation, can be challenging. This year, PSD is projected to see an increase of $19.3 million in funding through the state funding formula for school districts. This predicted increase comes from: 

  • Funding per student projected to increase from $10,080.93 per student to $10,778.31 per student (for a predicted overall increase of $17.3 million, despite a predicted decrease in enrollment), 
  • An inflation-based increase of $1.1 million from the 2019 mill levy override, and 
  • A negotiated change in use of reserve funding. 

Although an extra $19.3 million is absolutely needed and appreciated in a base-funded district, it will go fast. For example: 

  • A step in salary for licensed employees, equalized for classified staff, will cost $5.6 million. Any additional cost of living adjustment would cost $2.8 million for every 1% increase in compensation. 
  • The district will pay a $5.3 million portion of increased costs for employee medical and dental insurance premiums.  
  • At least $1.7 million of the $19.3 million will be directly funneled to PSD-authorized charter schools, as required by law. 
  • Utility and insurance costs are expected to increase by $700,000. 
  • PSD leaders have identified $300,000 to go toward critical priorities, such as funding legally required accessibility needs and a teacher mentor position that will no longer be grant-funded next year. 

Schools and the district’s central office alike are working on the following cuts: 

  • A $3.7 million reduction from Student-Based Budgeting schools (those that budget based on enrollment, at-risk and gifted and talented numbers, and resource needs for secondary students), 
  • A $800,000 reduction in funding to Zero-Based Budgeting schools (those that receive added funding due to their small size and/or unique programming), and 
  • A $2.1 million reduction in department and non-school funding identified from the central office.  

Enrollment trends and projections 

PSD’s student population is already smaller, and we’re not alone in that trend. After growing by 1-2% every year since 2004, Colorado’s once-booming gains in student enrollment began to ease up in 2015. Each year since then, enrollment statewide has either grown by less than 1% per year or shrunk. 

While much about life in public schools has returned to normal since the pandemic, enrollment has not. Overall PSD enrollment is projected to decrease by 550 full-time equivalent students from 2020-21 to 2024-25. Meanwhile, PSD charter school enrollment is predicted to increase by 408.5 full-time equivalent students during that period. Since PSD funnels district charter schools’ money directly to them, that means an overall reduction of 958.5 full-time equivalent students for the remaining PSD neighborhood and choice schools. 

 Using a five-year enrollment average for funding calculations, which the state allows, cushions the impact of this decrease. Although that cushion has prevented the district from feeling the full brunt of change in recent years, the cushion from using a five-year average grows thinner each year that enrollment declines. For example, the five-year average is providing funding for 271 more students than are enrolled this year, as previous years where more students were enrolled put the average above this year’s actual enrollment. 

Demographer data projects aging population, fewer births, amidst population growth 

Although no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, we can use data and historical trends to help inform tough decisions that lie ahead. In a February presentation to the PSD Board of Education, State Demographer Nancy Gedeon shared these facts

  • People under 30 are giving birth to fewer children in Larimer County. While Larimer County residents over 30 are having more children, it’s not enough to make up the difference. 
  • Larimer County’s population is projected to increase by 13% between 2020 and 2030. But much of that increase will be reflected in the senior citizen population as they age in place. 
  • After a projected bump in the number of people moving to Larimer County (minus those moving out) in the current decade, net migration is expected to slow down between 2030 and 2050. 
  • While the county population is expected to grow by 13% between 2020 and 2030, the population of residents under the age of 18 is projected to decrease. 
  • Larimer County had a peak in births in 2009. The demographer pointed out that classes after this point are smaller. While classes over 2,000 students district-wide had been the norm, there are currently no classes that large in any elementary grade in PSD. 

Data available on PSD website 

Going directly to the source is important. Here is a spreadsheet with Colorado Department of Education enrollment data that PSD's Finance Department presented April 9 to the Board of Education. Please visit the Data and Reports web page of the Long-Range Planning web section for more information.  

Thank you for making it through this letter – this information is complex, but so important for us to share with every member of the PSD community. We appreciate your time and care for this topic. 



Poudre School District