Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin proposed submitting a 2021-2022 draft budget to county commissioners that remained at $8.2 million, the same as the current year budget, however, after much discussion and on a motion made by Tommy Cabe and seconded by Hilary Wilkes, the Board approved to amend the 2021-2022 Draft Budget to include an additional 1.9 million to cover various positions.
Prior to COVID19, the Macon County Board of Education requested the nearly $2 million to add more than two dozen employees across the school system, however with uncertainties surrounding COVID19, the board of education voted to not request that funding from the county last school year.
Now, with a clear picture of the county and state financial situation, the board decided to ask the county for the $2 million budget increase to include funding the following school system staff:
· STEM Teacher, EC TA (2-positions) @ IVE
· PE, STEM & one extra month for clerical @ SM
· 2 extra months custodians @ MVI
· Guidance Counselor, Art Teacher, Music Teacher @ MMS
· Foreign Language Teacher @ Highlands
· English Teacher @ FHS
· Art/Music/CTE Teacher, Day Treatment Assistant @ UA
· 50,000 Maintenance Contract for MCS
· 10 additional mental health professionals to cover K-12
· 5 additional full time school nurses to cover K-12
· 4 full-time art positions to cover K-12
· 4 full-time music positions to cover K-12
The proposed positions were part of the Principal’s wish lists in February 2020 early on in the budget planning process, however before submitting the final budget, members of the board of education elected to not include the increase.
With the uncertainty of COVID19 in mind, Macon County Manager Derek Roland left the school system’s operational budget flat while reducing the district’s capital outlay budget by $275,000 – a decrease that was later reversed during the county’s mid-year review.
The Macon County Board of Education discussed budget challenges during May’s school board meeting at which point Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin informed board members that CARES Act funding – federal funding budgeted for relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic – would help the school system continue operating soundly over the next two years. Dr. Baldwin noted that the planning allotment for the federal funds – which are being distributed by the state – is more than $1 million and will be used over the next two years. Since May, additional COVID19 funding has been approved and will be allocated to the county’s in the future, aiding the school system even further.
Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). The Department will award these grants to State educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are LEAs, with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.
Despite millions of dollars available to the school system in the form of COVID19 relief, those funds are not recurring, therefore the school system wouldn’t use them to fund positions that would add to the county’s budget on a recurring basis.
In addition to the nearly $2 million budget increase request to county commissioners, the Macon County Board of Education discussed how to spend the substantial amount of ESSR grant funds that will soon become available.
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund).
Macon County Schools will likely see around $1.5 million from the ESSER II Fund. Macon County Schools Program Coordinator Jennifer Love informed members of the board of education that both students and parents, as well as community leaders, have been involved in sharing their views on how the second round of ESSER funds should be spent in Macon County and with overwhelming support, students wanted to see funding allowed to address the loss of curriculum surrounding the Arts such as much and art education. By law, 20 percent of the funding Macon County receives will have to be spent to address learning loss due to COVID19, however how the funding is spent under those guidelines is left up to the discretion of the local board.
Love noted that the grant applications had to be submitted by May 15, outlining how the funding would be spent locally, however there is flexibility to change and redirect the funding after the deadline.