Can residents expect a school tax refund since the schools are not opening until September 29 and not operating at full capacity?
The Department of Education requires that school districts educate its students for a minimum of 180 days in a school year, and there is no exception to the mandate at this time. Although the model will look significantly different than the traditional schooling, the financial picture of the District does not materially change.
Professional staff will still be teaching five days per week in the virtual environment, and will receive their contractual salary and benefits. The same is true for the majority of our support staff members who provide critical services supporting the classroom; support that, we will argue, is imperative during virtual instruction.
Salaries and benefits account for 76 percent, or almost $188 million, of the total District expenditures. It is true that there will be some operational savings because of the virtual start, but these savings are more than likely going to be offset by the costs associated with personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional equipment to facilitate this year’s virtual instruction.
At last estimate, those costs will be approximately $3.6 million. For context, the District budgeted to spend $1.7 million for utilities for all buildings for the entire year. So, even if the buildings were completely shut down for the entire year (which is not practical), the District will still need to come up with an additional $1.9 million to cover the additional PPE. State and federal funding for reopening costs has also been insufficient to date, totaling only $1.1 million. Furthermore, the above cost estimate does not include additional expenses incurred by the District if families elect to enroll their students in charter schools.
The District must pay either $14,886 per regular education student or $43,037 per special education student to attend the charter school, and the costs of this mandate could become very significant if families choose this option. (And because there is no state reimbursement for this mandate, the costs are borne by the local community).
More information on the District’s financial outlook and how the coronavirus has impacted the District’s finances can be found by viewing the April 16 and May 7 Finance Committee meetings, and the June 3 Budget Forum.