North Penn finance committee hears breakdown of COVID funds

TOWAMENCIN – A new year has brought a new update on the North Penn School District’s budget situation.

The school board’s finance committee heard an update on the status of the district’s stimulus funds, outlook for the budget year ending soon, and early numbers heading into an upcoming budget year.

“There have been a few changes since our last presentation in September,” said Assistant Director of Business Administration Kristin Johnson.

Since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, District Finance Department staff have provided the council with regular updates on various county, state, and federal COVID relief bills and funds secured by the district, with the last regular update in September 2021. meeting of the finance committee of the year on January 11, Johnson gave the latest figures: a total of $18,967,542 was obtained for the general fund of the district .

“We’ve allocated about $10.7 million of that amount, which leaves us with about $8.2 million remaining,” and strict guidelines where components of that total can be used, Johnson said.

Breaking down those totals, Johnson explained how the district has now fully spent the $984,000 allocated to Federal High School Emergency and Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that had a deadline to spend by September. 2021, as well as an additional $151,000 of a Special Education COVID-19 Impact Mitigation Grant. Two grants totaling about $976,000 from the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency were also spent, along with $1.6 million in CARES grants from Montgomery County and four new Third Bill grants. US Federal on ESSER bailout which are new additions since the last update. .

“These are the ARP-III ESSER Earmarked Grants for Learning Loss, Summer Enrichment, After and Before School Care, and Grants for Homeless Children and Youth,” totaling approximately $760,000 $,” Johnson said. Of these grant allocations, 30% of learning loss funds are to be used for social or emotional and mental health supports, 10% for staff professional development to address mental health needs, and 8% for reading aids, while the rest can be used. at the discretion of the borough.

The summer enrichment funding, approximately $103,000, will be used for district summer school programs intended to offset learning loss due to COVID-related disruptions, Johnson told the committee, while funds for homeless children and youth will be used to transport students who are homeless. in various school buildings for in-person instruction. Board member Al Roesch said he’s heard recent headlines about increased state funding for COVID-related costs, and Johnson said she doesn’t know of any new allocations, but that staff always checked with the Pennsylvania Department of Education just in case.

“We are constantly checking the BDP website, to see if anything pops up, because these last four grants popped up very quickly in the fall. We will definitely be on the lookout,” she said.

Three major funding sources still have funds to allocate, approximately $8.2 million in total from the ESSER II and III and American Rescue Plan bills, of which approximately $7.8 million is from the ESSER III bill and must be spent by September 2024, with a requirement that at least 20% be spent on learning loss mitigation.

“We anticipate that we will need to identify the uses of this grant fairly quickly here. We haven’t received the state grant application deadline yet,” Johnson told the committee, but a state deadline for allocating those funds is coming up in March and staff are already meeting. to discuss the best uses of these funds.

“We don’t know what our deadline will be, but we know it’s coming up,” she said.

As she spoke, Johnson showed a series of slides and charts detailing funding amounts, usage restrictions and remaining balances for each category, and the details are available in the finance committee meeting documents of the January 11. ESSER I and II funding went to personnel costs related to the district’s COVID response and “distance learning technology equipment,” which Johnson said should be familiar to those who have been following the district’s response. district.

“These are precisely the TV setups that we purchased last fall: the TV stands, the cameras, all that setup, so that we could continue to provide that virtual instruction if needed,” she said.

Also new since the last update, district staff have compiled a detailed breakdown of each category for funding spent, just over $3.8 million for technology equipment and $3.7 million for replacement or additional staff, to more modest expenditures of just over $330,000 for mental health. services, $145,000 for summer programs and $103,000 for before and after school programs.

“We are still assessing needs and determining uses for remaining funds, so these categories should continue to change, and potentially new categories will be added as we move through this process,” Johnson said.

For the Separate District Extended Care Fund, a total of approximately $895,000 has been raised from the various COVID relief bills, and all but approximately $53,000 has already been spent. In June 2021, the board approved a $1.5 million transfer from the general fund to the extended care fund to cover lost revenue due to COVID shutdowns, and Johnson said “we hope there will be a large sum transfer” to the general fund at the end of the current school year.

“We hope they will be able to repay around $500,000, mainly due to receiving this grant this year. We’re hoping a lot of it will be refunded and then we’ll see when we can get the rest,” she said.

Committee Chairman Christian Fusco added that the board’s Education, Curriculum and Instruction Committee had “examined more closely” the details of these expenses, “and we will continue to do so. throughout the year”.

Recent news will impact the district’s 2022-23 budget, for which talks are just beginning: Johnson told the board that in December, the state’s PSERS board certified the rate of employer’s contribution for the coming budget year at 35.26%, up. by 34.94 percent in the current budget year, but down slightly from the district’s projection of 35.79 percent.

“The change in this rate will result in an increase of approximately $227,000 to the general fund budget for 2022-23,” Johnson said.

Talks on the 2022-23 budget began at the November finance committee meeting and will resume in earnest in February when the board begins holding multiple finance committee meetings to hear departmental budget reports. Departmental reports currently scheduled include Facilities and Operations, School Safety and Security, and Transportation Departments on February 15; community engagement and communications and secondary education on March 8; curriculum, special education and human resources on March 22; and Elementary Education and Technology on April 12.

And good news for the 2021-22 fiscal year coming to an end: Johnson reported earned income and real estate transfer tax revenue are both ahead of projections, and national headlines on d Potential interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve could also provide a boost to the District’s bottom line.

“They had an indication that there could be three rate hikes in 2022, which would be hugely beneficial to our investment income. We’ve had a hard time since COVID emerged,” Johnson said.

The North Penn School Board then meets at 7:00 p.m. on February 8, and the Finance Committee then meets at 6:00 p.m. that evening; for more information, visit www.NPenn.org.

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