Due to lower-than-projected student enrollment numbers, Katy ISD is expecting less state revenue for the 2020-21 school year. The KISD board of trustees approved a budget amendment Oct. 26 decreasing the general fund revenue by $15.3 million to recognize the actual enrollment numbers, which is not only also a statewide problem, but a nationwide issue, KISD CFO Christopher Smith said.

“We are 3.2% under what we budgeted [for the 2020-21 school year enrollment], but we do have as many students as we ended the year with last year,” Smith said. “So, we’re not down; we’re just not up as much as we thought.”

The district originally budgeted for 5.1% enrollment growth in the 2020-21 school year. As of Oct. 26, 84,200 students were enrolled in KISD, as opposed to the projected number of 87,033 students, Smith said. KISD ended the spring 2020 semester with 84,287 students.

The decline in projected enrollment was due to several factors, including home school and private school student numbers rising, students returning to their home countries and parents choosing to wait a year to send their children to pre-K or kindergarten, according to data from KISD.

“People have been doing that for years for various reasons, but this year, they’re coining the term ‘redshirt year,’” Smith said.

Another contributing factor that led to the budget decrease is the way the state funds certain student populations and allotments, including those with dyslexia, compensatory education students—or students who quality for free and reduced-price lunch—and the fast growth allotment. For example, even if the number of dyslexic or free and reduced-price lunch student populations grow later in the year, the funding received by the district will be based on Oct. 30 enrollment data, Smith said.

“Dyslexia students—even though we may grow them throughout the year, [Oct. 30] is the day,” Smith said. “All that growth [after that day] won’t matter when it comes to funding.”

Additionally, because every district in the state is offering free and reduced-price lunch to all students this year, there is not an incentive for students who qualify to reapply, Smith said. Four thousand fewer KISD students have signed up for free and reduced-price lunch this year so far, he said.

“We’re afraid, statewide, ... it’ll create a funding shortage for school districts,” Smith said. “It’s not quite as much of an issue here because we don’t have a very high free and [reduced-price] lunch numbers compared to statewide, but it’s a problem nonetheless.”

Approximately 60% of students in Texas qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, while that number was about 32% in KISD in 2019-20, according to data from the Texas Education Agency.

However, even with the budget reduction, Smith said the district has a healthy fund balance and significantly underspent during the spring and summer, when classes were not being held in person.

“Everything statewide, when it comes to these predictions, is out the window,” Smith said. “But the reality is we’re probably not going to earn as much money as we thought we would.”