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Coronavirus costing school district dollars

COVID-19 is an expensive proposition when it comes to education.

Earlier this month, the Warren County School District board approved a line item of $250,000 that Superintendent Amy Stewart could spend on pandemic-related expenses.

At Monday’s meeting of the finance committee, Chairman Arthur Stewart asked if the board should do that again.

Amy Stewart said that would be very helpful.

Out of the initial $250,000, WCSD has spent more than $210,000.

“The kids will be able to get what they need because I’ve been able to pull the trigger faster,” she said.

Technology, learning kits, and mileage for delivering meals are among the larger ticket items.

The largest, by far, is hotspots.

Providing for education continuity has been a challenge for the district because of the high percentage of students who do not have access to suitable internet service.

More than a month into the closure, “We have yet to be able to have a hotspot or mobile device,” Stewart said.

That is about to change. “We were able, finally, to get a vendor with hotspots in inventory,” she said. “They’re coming.”

Board member Kevin Lindvay asked Stewart to be sure that expenses related to COVID-19 are tracked in case there is some kind of reimbursement.

She assured the board that administration is carefully tracking those expenditures.

Among the $213,988.30 detailed in a budget report, was an expense of $21.98 for “sewage plant supplies.”

Stewart explained those dollars purchased for the district some rabbit food.

Because the schools are closed, sewer systems that utilize activated sludge are at risk of disruption. The rabbit food takes the place of the material that typically feeds the system.

At the special board meeting held at the conclusion of the committee meetings, the board approved another $250,000 to push through the COVID situation until the May meeting.

In full, the district is down about $1.2 million due to COVID-19. Of that, some expenditures ($700,000) were previously authorized by the board, the $210,000 spent so far under the special authorization, and over $300,000 paid out to food service workers that the district must pay under the National School Lunch Program, while the NSLP dollars are not authorized.

The district has been authorized to operate its summer lunch program – one of the victories of the situation. “I think it’s providing a great relief to some of the families out there,” Stewart said.

“We’ve had 30 serving days,” Director of Business Services Jim Grosch said. “So far, the people have served 45,459 meals — 1,515 a day.”

The numbers are up recently, he said. Over the last five days, the program is moving 1,657 meals per day.

“I want to say thank you to all the people that are providing the meals,” he said.

Some revenues are expected to be down due to the pandemic, too.

Grosch said he expects the local services tax and occupational privilege tax revenues to be down by about 10 percent – a loss of about $9,000. The estimated drop in the earned income taxes to the district is higher — 20 percent, resulting in a $157,000 loss of revenue.

Stewart said the district expects to see some savings out of the shutdown and will discuss them in May. “We do believe we will have some savings that we are looking at,” she said.

Budget

Grosch shared his pre-COVID-19 projections with the board.

Without any of the increased expenses and decreased revenues related to the pandemic, and without significant positive changes, Grosch projects that the district will be in the red starting in the 2022-2023 school year.

“By the year 2022-2023, there’s going to be a $2.5 million deficit in our fund balance,” he said. “We’ll have burned completely through our fund balance. That will mean we’ve spent the entire $17.4 million.”

The district has set dollars aside to pay for large expenditures that officials know are coming in the near future.

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