With an eye toward the present and the future, first-year Edgemont Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Hamilton ordered a demographic study of the school district. The most recent information he had, which included a large projected rise in student enrollment, “did not seem to hold true” to his “own non-scientific, surface-level review of patterns and enrollment trends.”
“I was seeking either confirmation of previously provided data, or new information more closely aligned with current trends and growth patterns within our region and community,” Hamilton said.
The new information presented to Hamilton and the board of education at the Tuesday, March 21, board meeting painted a different picture than the information that was used to create the district’s latest bond plans starting back in 2018. With the board of education opting to abandon the approved bond from 2021 due to delays in New York State Education Department approval and rising construction costs and borrowing rates (http://bit.ly/3KbD0eZ), Hamilton said, “This new study will be used to help inform how we may assist the board with repackaging the bond and to influence short- and long-term planning for the district.”
Barbara Graziano of Western Suffolk BOCES presented the study, which Hamilton said at the meeting would provide “pivotal data” for five-year trends, but also included a 10-year look forward.
Graziano said her office has conducted more than 1,300 such studies throughout the state since 1985, with an accuracy projection with a 4% margin of error, but “usually even better than that.” Though the study looks ahead a full decade, Graziano presented the next five years of projections, because that window is more reliable.
Looking at demographics for birth trends in the state, county, town and district; housing trends as far as turnover and potential new construction or proposals for new construction; population trends as far as ethnic and age shifts; along with enrollment trends including attending other schools, migration from grade to grade and a birth persistence analysis that looks at the correlation between birth rates and enrollment, the report showed some big changes in certain areas.
Edgemont’s population rose about 5% from 2000 to 2010 (7,101 to 7,454) and 5% from 2010-20 (to 7,822), yet the numbers show that enrollment is declining and could decrease by 101 students, or 5.2%, over the next five years.
From 2012-2022 the average incoming kindergarten class was 125 students, while the next five years the average is projected to be 112.
In 2000, there were more than 13,000 babies born in Westchester County. In 2020 that number was under 10,000, what Graziano called a “significant decline” of 28%. Edgemont peaked with 78 births in 2008, while that number was just 38 in 2020.
Edgemont’s number of households with children under 18 have held steady in the 46% range from 2000 to 2020, while county trends have gone down from 36.6% in 2000 to 33% in 2020.
Housing sales play a role in the data. In 2010, 66 houses were sold in Edgemont. 2015 saw a peak of 123 and by 2019 that was down to 77. The post-pandemic boost had 2021 back up to 114 houses sold. The median home sales price in 2011 was $822,000. That number peaked in 2017 at $1.2 million, and in 2021 was at $1.128 million. The type of houses that were for sale and demand at those times are a major factor in those figures.
More Edgemonters seem to be aging in place. In 2000, 13.1% of the population was 65 or older, while in 2020 that number was up to 16.3%.
From 2000 to 2020 Edgemont has seen great shifts in ethnicity of its residents:
- · White: 74.6% down to 52.9%
- · Black: 1.5% up to 1.6%
- · Hispanic: 3.6% up to 7.1%
- · Asian/other: 18.9% up to 33.5%
- · Two/more: 1.3% up to 4.9%
For student enrollment:
- · White: 74.4% down to 45.2%
- · Black: 1.1% up to 2.1%
- · Hispanic: 2.7% up to 9.0%
- · Asian/other: 21.8% up to 36.2%
- · Two/more: 2000 n/a, then 1.5% in 2010 and up to 7.5% in 2020.
Board member Jennifer DeMarrais inquired about the more detailed 65-page report that showed periods where Greenville School had gained 68 students and Seely Place School had lost 76 and wondered if there was any insight into that. Graziano said data is not available by zone within the school district, so she did not have an answer.
Assistant superintendent for business and administration Bryan Paul noted that for some students from residences on Central Avenue it is up to the district to decide where to send them.
Board member Nilesh Jain asked what the most important factor in the declining enrollment was, to which Graziano replied “declining births,” and not just in Edgemont, but in “a lot of districts.” Graziano said that trends lean toward getting married and having children later in life, putting off starting a family and therefore not having as many kids. She said there is “no indication the birth trend will go in the other direction.”
Capital reserve fund proposed
Based on the recommendation of an auditor, Paul suggested the school board put the creation of a new capital reserve fund on the May 16 ballot. He said the “strong rationale” included the district having already identified $100 million in capital work that will need to be done in the near future and the expectation of a “fairly significant surplus” at the end of the current 2022-23 school year.
“We want to have as many options available to us as possible to make the most informed decision that positions us for the future,” Paul said, adding that a capital reserve would “in a very broad sense, be utilized in subsequent years for a variety of capital needs, so it’s not pigeon-holed to one specific project itdf self.”
Just as the district has reserves for the teacher retirement system, employee retirement system and tax certiorari, which have increased and put the district in a “good position,” a capital reserve would give similar insurance for proper use of funding.
Creating such a fund requires a public majority vote and holds a maximum duration of 10 years. There would also be a pre-determined maximum threshold of what can be deposited — the administration is recommending $5 million as a “cushion for future needs” — and while the district can make surplus deposits into the reserve, the money can’t be spent without the community being informed of its intended usage and another vote is held.
Paul said there would be “no direct impact on taxpayers” to create or use the fund.
The board of education is slated to meet April 11 (if needed) and April 18. The board is expected to adopt a budget on April 18 and will have to decide by that time whether or not to take the administration’s recommendation to put the capital reserve fund on the ballot.
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