COVID-19 will leave its mark on the economy for years to come, especially financially. With income taxes put on hold and sales tax figures down in the State of Illinois due to the stay at home orders, Massac Unit One Superintendent Jason Hayes says the next fiscal year (FY) may be financially tough.
“We get the majority of our money from the State of Illinois, and the Sate of Illinois gets the majority of its money from sources that aren’t coming in right now,” he told Unit One school board members Monday night.
Unit One receives 65.4% of its funding from the state. In FY 19 that total was $15,163,331. Hayes said school districts across the state are being cautioned now to expect shortfalls in state aid in FY21. “We are being told by superintendents and the state board and all across the state to start thinking about next year and tightening our belts, because next year is going to be a rough year,” he said.
The school district is currently building three models to forecast finances for next year — a model flat to FY 20; a model without categorical payments and delayed property tax payments; and one without categorical payments, possibly delayed property tax payments and prorated evidence-based funding (EBF) payments.
Filling extra staff positions have been put on hold, and Hayes is leveraging the last part of the grant money for this year.
Unit One is already seeing some payments not come in on time. Typically the district will receive a payment each quarter in transportation funding. So far only one categorical payment totaling $233,019 has been received for FY 20, and Hayes has been told all other payments are on hold and have not been approved by Illinois Comptroller Susan Mendoza. The district has been told to look for them next year in FY 21.
The district had 113.66 days of cash on hand June on 30, 2019, and at a cost of $55,229 per day to open the days there is enough cash on hand to make it through Sept. 30 without state aid.
Gov. JB Pritzker has told superintendents to prepare for both remote and in-person classes for the 2020-21 school year because it is unclear what things will look like. “What we’ve learned in that short period of time is that many, many schools are not ready for e-learning but should be,” said Pritzker.
“That’s true, we still aren’t ready,” said Hayes, “but I don’t think you can blame that on us or Massac County’s people. We don’t have the infrastructure here and we need a serious hard look at that,” referring to the lack of sufficient internet all over southern Illinois. He is hopeful even though state funding may less than last year, that the state has seen better infrastructure is needed, and grants may become available to help build the infrastructure needed.
Also during Hayes’ report to the board, he said 38,890 meals have been served to students in 26 days, and over 100 volunteers have helped. The last day of meal delivery will be May 15, which is the last day of school.
In other business, the board:
• Held discussion on the newly installed bleachers at the high school regarding the loss of seats. Hayes will look into the situation.
• Approved the amended school year without spring break, making the last day May 15.
• Approved a two-year electric contract for Brookport Elementary with AEP.
• Approved changing the May board meeting to May 18 so it doesn’t fall on Memorial Day.
• Accepted resignations from Antonia Hutcheson, Masssac Junior High School (MJHS) special education and Mandy Hannan, MJHS cheerleading sponsor.
• Approved the hiring of Courtney Hastings, special education at MJHS.
• And acknowledged the transfer of Sarah Wittig to special education at MJHS.