Carmel Clay Schools has found itself in an unusual and unexpected position that could lead to a reduction in a planned pay raise for some employees and the elimination of a small number of teaching jobs.
The district is projecting a decline of 150 to 175 students enrolled at CCS this year. Previously, demographers projected district enrollment would grow by 162 students this year, meaning CCS has approximately 300 fewer students enrolled than officials expected.
This creates a problem because CCS created its $130 million budget in part based on demographers’ projections, and being short 300 students will lead to a loss of nearly $2 million in state funding. For each enrolled student, CCS receives approximately $6,100 from the state.
“Carmel’s not accustomed to having declining enrollment, but that’s what we had this year,” said Roger McMichael, CCS associate superintendent of business affairs.
McMichael said he expects the district will make up the shortfall in two ways. First, fewer students means that fewer teachers will be needed, so, unless enrollment rebounds next year, CCS will likely cut a handful of positions on campuses where enrollment dropped the most.
“We’re large enough that if we need to have five or 10 fewer positions next year, we’ll have far more turnover through attrition, so we’ll be able to manage that (without letting teachers go),” he said.
McMichael said he will propose covering the remainder of the difference by recommending a previously approved 4.5 percent raise for administrators and department chairs for the 2022-23 school year be scaled back to 3 percent. The school board will consider the proposal at a future meeting.
The decline in enrollment has been consistent throughout the district and has occurred at the elementary, middle and high school levels, McMichael said. He suspects the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, combined with CCS not offering a virtual option this year, led to some of the decrease.
McMichael also believes that some families who want to send their kids to Carmel schools haven’t been able to do so because of limited housing options.
“We know that in Carmel and other places the housing market right now can make it very difficult to find a home that you can afford, or even be for sale, so people can’t move here,” McMichael said. “Moving here is subject to finding a place to live.”
CCS and other school districts locally and nationwide have faced increased scrutiny from parents in recent months, but McMichael said there is no information to suggest that angry parents are pulling their children from Carmel schools in large numbers.