School board might consider another demographic study as numbers continue to exceed projections

The Mahomet-Seymour School District will discuss another demographic study in the May board of education study session as enrollment numbers continue to exceed projections.

“I think that there is a coming enrollment explosion, mainly from our neighbors to the east (Champaign),” board member Jeremy Henrichs said. “I’m not sure that we have a real handle on that.”

Henrichs added that as a physician, he has heard a lot of patients talking about moving to Mahomet. While anecdotal, Henrichs believes that with the current enrollment numbers, it’s important to prepare for what could be coming.

If the board votes to fund another study with Cropper GIS Consulting, it will be the fourth look since January, 2019.

Partnering with the Village of Mahomet in 2018, the district enlisted the services of Cropper GIS Consulting to predict what enrollment might look like over the next decade.The two entities split the cost of the $11,500 demographic study that included a 1.5-mile radius of Village limits, even though the Mahomet-Seymour School District boundaries boundaries 15 miles north and south, and between 7 to 9 miles east and west on the west side of Champaign County.

Within the $11,500 agreement, the school district provided enrollments by grade for the school years 2014-15 to 2018-19 while data from the 2010 Census and the Illinois Department of Health were added to determine household size, age, birth and death records.

The Village of Mahomet also provided information on already platted development that is currently under construction or slated to be completed within the next decade within the Village limits. Those developments included the additions to Thornewood, Deer Hollow, Sangamon Fields, Harvest Edge and Hunters Ridge subdivisions as well as the Solace and Middletown Apartment developments.

Almost one year after being presented in a joint meeting between the Mahomet-Seymour School Board and the Village Board of Trustees, Superintendent Lindsey Hall reached out to Cropper GIS Consulting President, Matthew Cropper, to see what an update would entail. That conversation was delayed until February, 2021 with COVID-19 mitigations changing the landscape of a typical school day.

As the district prepared to engage community members in the long-term facility planning process, Bulldog Blueprint, Cropper gave the district the option to completely redo the demographic study for $9,500 or to just update the study with 2020 and 2021 student enrollment numbers. Superintendent Hall gave the nod for the $2,500 update.

Over the first couple sessions of Bulldog Blueprint meetings, the district presented updated numbers from Cropper’s 2021 predictions. As the 2021-22 school year approached, enrollment once again proved to be higher than what Cropper predicted.

Total enrollment as of Aug. 23, 2021,was 3,337 with 780 students at Middletown Prairie; 762 at Lincoln Trail; 764 at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High and 1031 at Mahomet-Seymour High School. Cropper had projected enrollment at 3,228 for the 2021-22 school year with 698 at Middletown Prairie; 725 at Lincoln Trail; 760 at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High and 1,045 at Mahomet-Seymour High School.

With reports of parents calling the Mahomet-Seymour office to see if they can pay tuition for their child to attend, and homes within the district selling quickly, the district is already preparing for higher than expected enrollments in the 2022-23 school year. Hall said that parents cannot pay tuition for their child to attend Mahomet-Seymour.

The current study predicts that the Mahomet-Seymour School District will have 3,583 students enrolled by 2030.

The scale may tip upward even further as the platted new construction that was cited in the 2019 demographic study comes to fruition. Approximately 500 single-family homes are still left to build, and four more apartment buildings in Solace are just now being erected. While this land will not develop overnight, about 80 new homes come into the market each year. That construction is projected to be completed by 2030.

In an interview with Village Planner Kelly Pfeifer, she said adults without children are moving into the apartment buildings at this time.

The first two published studies (winter 2019, spring 2021; the third look was an update in fall 2021) bank their prediction on the idea that current homeowners will not move after their child(ren) finishes school. As that population ages, new construction will be where the bulk of families with children reside, according to the demographic study.

Whether or not that idea comes to fruition, developers are purchasing land near already existing infrastructure, both within or near the village limits and to the south near Jacob’s Landing. Much of this land is currently zoned residential, although Village Planner Pfeifer has noted that zoning is fluid.

The same goes for the preliminary plans that the Village has spent the last six years developing. Pfeifer said that things like the Comprehensive Plan, zoning maps and Downtown Master Plans are all a vision for what could be. The same goes for the sketches provided to landowners as they decide how to develop their land.

According to preliminary designs obtained via FOIA, the Village of Mahomet continues to work with landowners to develop commercial, including industrial and institutional, on the east side of Mahomet, extending the length of Prairieview Road. The desire to continue residential development, including single-family and multi-family development within the next 30 years also extends into downtown Mahomet where homes are already established. The Downtown Master Plan approved in 2019 has its sights set on a make-over of what was once known as the heart of Mahomet.

Other assumptions made in both the 2019 and 2021 studies were that interest rates would stay below 4.5% for the next decade. The federal reserve set a target interest rates at 5.27-percent on a 30-year mortgage last week. One year ago that rate was 2.69-percent. Banks set their own interest rates.

Some members of the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education, the district architect and Village staff say that counting on development five years out is tricky because developers are not willing to make a commitment that far out. Pfeifer said from start to finish, it takes about three years to get a subdivision approved.

If approved the tax increase will be significant, nearly $1,000 per year more just in taxes to the Mahomet-Seymour School District for a $300,000 home.

Board member Colleen Schultz asked the board of education to consider getting started on plans to add onto Lincoln Trail immediately in order to have plans ready to go prior to breaking ground for Mahomet-Seymour Junior High, should the $97.5 million referendum pass on June 28.

BLDD Architect Damien Schlitt said that was not possible to add onto any of the existing junior buildings prior to moving forward with the high, because there are only a limited number of construction crews in the East Central Illinois area; because parts of the construction will have to take place during the school year; And because the opportunity to bid out smaller projects at a reasonable price for the following year has already passed.

Board President Max McComb said that he did not want it to appear as if the board has “preordained” what the voters want. He also said that the district could fund staff committees to give input to what they want to see in the facilities over the summer months.

Later on in the meeting, Schlitt noted that with inflation rates, costs of materials and costs associated with labor, the board may have to make decisions on how to prioritize the allocation of the $97.5 million if the referendum passes. The only thing the district will be obligated to do with the referendum is build the junior high and the bus barn, and make updates somewhere else in the district.

The board of education is expected to revisit this discussion during the May 16 regular meeting.

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