As we transition into the month of February, the District begins the process of analyzing the number of students enrolled in our schools and compares these numbers to the number of teachers, staff, and building costs District wide. With funding tied directly to student enrollment, it requires districts to track the enrollments to secure funding to allow the daily operations of schools to take place. The Utah Legislature distributes money for each student through the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). Funding is tied directly to the number of students enrolled in the district which in turn simply means more students equates to an increase in state and federal funding and the reverse is also true, less students mean a decrease in funding. When we analyzed the student numbers, it was very concerning to see how many students we have decreased in the last four months. On October 1st, 2014 the District had 926 students enrolled in school. On January 23rd, 2015 we have decreased to 900 students. This is the lowest student enrollment we have seen in the District since we have been keeping track of student enrollment. In an attempt to put the declining student enrollment in perspective, in 2001 the student enrollment in the District was 1049. If you subtract our current student enrollment from the student population in 2001, you will see a decrease of 149 students, which is equivalent to the number of students enrolled at Panguitch High School. In reality, we have lost the equivalent of the largest high school in the District in the last fourteen years. With such a dramatic decrease in the student numbers, I would encourage you to talk to your your locally elected officials and encourage them to participate in the video conference meeting with the Garfield County Economic Development Specialist Justin Fischer. Garfield School District will broadcast the meeting to the high schools along with connection capability to Antimony and Boulder. I contacted Mr. Fischer to see what has been done on the County level to promote economic development. He provided me with the following information.
In 2014, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development granted more than $250,000 to businesses in Garfield County through their Rural Fast Track grant program. More grants were issued last year alone than in the previous ten years or more.
Grant funds from the USDA, along with local matching funds, have been used to engage Better City, an economic development consulting firm, to conduct a feasibility study for Panguitch’s industrial park. This study will result in actions items that will set the stage for new or existing businesses to locate in the industrial park. The focus of the study will be year-round, full-time employment.
An application is in process with the Economic Development Administration to help fund a countywide economic development study, which will result in a new county economic development strategic plan. This, too, will result in actionable items that the county and local communities can take to advance their economies.
ELECTED OFFICIALS’ CONFERENCE/VIDEO CALL
Last fall, a twice-monthly conference call focused on economic development was initiated by Garfield County. The calls will resume in February, with GCSD providing video conference capability to enhance the effectiveness of the meetings.
Additionally, Garfield County connects local businesses with service providers from USU, the Small Business Development Center, and others on a case-by-case basis. USU and the County offer a biannual business conference that focuses on providing training in a variety of business needs.
Please become actively involved with your locally elected leaders to promote economic development in our County.
–Superintendent Ben Dalton