The Sept. 28 Massac Unit 1 school board included more than approving Phase I of the return-to-normal school transition plan, which occurred Monday.

The board also approved a $23 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year.

In a public hearing held before the regular meeting, Superintendent Jason Hayes went over the budget with the board members.

“This budget is balanced now, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room,” he said. “We tried to keep everything as level as possible.”

While there are several givens — revenues will be flat, per the state; a little revenue will be gained from the property tax inflation rate; how much salaries and health insurance are going up — there are more “what-ifs out there. The unknowns are what’s bothering me,” Hayes said. “There are some revenue sources I didn’t take out because if we ever get back to normal school, they’ll be there. But on the flip side, there are little expenses we’re not incurring. Maybe this stuff will balance out. It’s an unknown because it’s so different.”

Hayes noted that while the district may not be using some things — running busses five days a week, for example — it is a cost because it is a contract.

Unexpected COVID costs — cleaning supplies, extra paper towels, spray bottles that CARES grant money covered a portion of but is no longer available — are also impacting the budget.

“It’s a little scary this year because of the unknowns,” Hayes said. “If we get to resume normal operations, I think we’ll be good. If we don’t, we’re probably going to have to amend this budget and take a hard look at how this is really impacting us.”

Hayes noted the district’s incurred COVID costs would be more if not for Massac County Emergency Management Agency director Brian Horn, who “has done a great job helping us out with hand sanitizer, masks, gloves. That’s helping.”

The final fiscal year 2020 expenditures were $23,077,532. For FY’21, it’s up $250,024 to $23,327,556.

“That’s still probably going to be a little low,” Hayes said. “This one is going to be close. It’s balanced on paper for now.”

Hayes also point out to the board the declining numbers across the district. Comparing Sept. 17, 2019, to Sept. 28, 2020, enrollment is down 154 students, working out to: 18 less at Brookport Elementary; 29 at Franklin; nine at Jefferson; 17 at Unity; 49 at Metropolis Elementary; 11 at Massac Junior High; and 21 at Massac County High.

“It is a concern moving forward to next year,” Hayes said. “Our first enrollment snapshot for the Evidence Based Funding Formula (how the state distributes funding to school districts) (was) Oct. 1. Unless we’re able to recoup a significant number of those (students) by the next snapshot, which is March 1, we’re going to take a hit on Evidence Based Funding next year. And that will be a tough one — we’re looking at $800,000 to $1 million in lost revue possible. That’s a big chunk of change for us. That will definitely impact us.”

Hayes noted that if that does occur, the district does have “some money in reserves — it’s not that we’d have to borrow money right off the bat — but we’d burn pretty quick through that, too.”

During its regular meeting, the board also:

• Approved the health insurance renewal proposal from Blue Cross Blue Shield at an increase of 5.6%.

• Approved the resignations of Mandy Hannan as MCHS school cheer coach and, effective Dec. 31, Peggy Sheari as MCHS guidance counselor.

• Approved the retirements of Robin Atkinson in 2021 and Frances Porter in 2023.

• And, approved the closing of a Banterra bank account that was not being utilized.

The next regular school board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the MCHS library

Unit 1 schools will be closed Oct. 8-12 for a mini-fall break.

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