An early review of the West Salem School District’s enrollment, staffing and budget at a board meeting Monday night showed continued growth could mean nearly $500,000 of additional funding in 2018-19.

That boost to revenue, could, however, be quickly off-set by the need for additional staff, and rising health costs, district officials cautioned.

Superintendent Troy Gunderson said the district anticipates a total enrollment of 1,735 students in the fall of 2018. This is the third consecutive year the district’s resident population has grown.

He said the affect of this growth should push the district’s revenue limit up making more money available to the district. Based on the revenue limit formula, the district expects to gain an additional $500,000 in new funds.

The growing population does pose a staffing challenge for the district. With more students than ever attending school in West Salem class sizes are close to exceeding the district’s guidelines.

“In the elementary school 4K, they are understaffed according to our classroom guidelines,” Gunderson said, adding that teachers are working with classrooms of 20 when they should be closer to 15.

The board has set class size guidelines to between 16-19 students per classroom in 4K and Kindergarten, 18-21 in second and third grades, and 22-25 in fourth and fifth grades. Every section in the elementary school is either at or exceeding the limit.

Along with moving the fifth grade over the middle school in 2018-19, the district plans to add a section to first and fourth grade to reduce some of the larger class sizes.

“We’ve got a lot of debate to do, but it’s not going to be staffing neutral over there,” Gunderson said. “What’s new this year is we have more new money than we thought and more students than we thought.”

The district hasn’t determined how rising health care costs could impact the budget but currently estimates a 15-percent increase in costs in the new school year.

“It’s not hard to imagine that it will exceed $1 million,” he said.

The board didn’t take any action on the report, and the finance committee will revisit the budget ahead of the Jan. 22, meeting.

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Coulee Courier reporter

Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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