Due to uncertainty in funding caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dawson County School System’s budget for the upcoming 2020-21 school year is temporarily up in the air, education officials say.
At the spring retreat of the Dawson County Board of Education, held Tuesday, April 28, board members were briefed on funding problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and how it will impact the budgeting process.
“Generally going into this time of year, we have at least one of our two sources of funding available to us, our Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding,” Superintendent Damon Gibbs said. “The state QBE funding, as of today, is not available to us, because the legislative session was suspended before the budget was approved.”
With the uncertainty of state funding, approving the upcoming budget is proving to be much more difficult than in past years, Gibbs said.
“Generally the only area of our budget that we’re uncertain about is the local property tax budget, so when you have one of the two pieces of information you can make some pretty good moves moving forward with projections within the budget,” Gibbs said. “When you have no information available to you and a great deal of speculation about the cuts to state funding, we’re having to move forward more cautiously.”
The legislative session will be back by June 11 and the BOE should have a budget ready by July, according to Gibbs.
Schools will also be receiving funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act. Jamie Ulrich, Chief Financial Officer for Dawson County Schools, approximates the CARES funding will be about $390,000.
“We don’t have a lot of details except to say that the money will be sent to states, primarily to the state education agency, so that’s a pure estimate,” Ulrich said.
CARES money is available now for states to access, the requirement is for each state to distribute 90% of the funding to public, private and charter schools.
Due to funding uncertainty, the budget Ulrich presented at the board retreat is an estimation based on projections. Until funding is known and the school board is able to approve a more certain budget, a spending resolution will be presented to the board members.
“This is something we’ve never asked the board to do, but without budget information, most school districts across the state are asking their boards of education in lieu of approving the budget for the FY21 year to approve a spending resolution for the month of July until we get data so we can ask you to approve our budget,” Gibbs said.
The spending resolution asks the school system not to exceed one-twelfth of the amended budget from the 2019-20 school year until the board can get enough information to pass a complete budget.
The spending resolution will be brought to the board of education for approval in May, and budget approval will be pushed back one month.