School enrollment figures for school districts across the state were updated recently for the 2014-2015 school year (last school year) and the Whitehall School District’s total enrollment fell to 736 students. This was a drop of 21 students from 757 from the 2013-2014 year.
I have been tracking and reporting on the enrollment for a number of years. To put this number of 736 students into historical context I have updated my yearly enrollment chart below:
As you can see, enrollment has been down 16.8% since the 2004-2005 school year. It is the lowest enrollment for the district over this time period.
During this time, local property taxes have increased every year. The Board of Education has not passed on any savings from this plummeting enrollment to the local taxpayers, in spite of increased state aid.
Our neighboring school district to the north in Putnam recently decided that the taxpayers of their district deserved a break and has proposed a property tax levy 11.59 % lower than the previous year. Read about it here in the Post Star.
There will be another school board election in May for two seats on the school board. I will ask all the candidates running what their position on falling enrollment and its impact on the budget is.
In the past, many of the candidates running have simply not answered that question. However, there is a cost to the community for not addressing this issue. Until it is addressed – the cycle will continue; businesses and people will continue to leave as taxes and the lack of opportunity drive them away. The problem will only become more pronounced and harder to ultimately correct until it is addressed and rectified. Putnam has taken a big step for the taxpayers of their district, will the Whitehall School Board do the same?