Education

Officials at Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) are predicting the coronavirus pandemic will cost the district $22.7 million in lost revenue for the 2021 fiscal year. The JCPS board of education approved a tentative budget Tuesday night, which includes new expenditures for a teacher residency program, more supports for students with disabilities, and funding for facilities improvement.

“This is more tentative than ever before,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said, noting that possible federal aid is uncertain, and schools may face additional pandemic-related costs come the fall.

The board will approve the final version of the budget at the end of September.

Cost of the Pandemic

JCPS estimates the pandemic and financial downturn will cost the district $22.72 million in lost tax revenue, interest, and state per-pupil funding in the 2021 fiscal year. That’s a relatively small portion of the district’s proposed $1.3 billion budget.

The majority of the impact is due to a loss of revenue from occupational taxes. With multiple sectors of the economy closed and fewer people working, occupational taxes are down. JCPS is predicting a $15.25 million hit from declines in expected occupational tax revenue.

The district is also predicting a $2.6 million impact from a loss of interest, and a $4.87 million impact from a decline in SEEK funding, or per-pupil funding from the state.

SEEK is allocated to districts based on their local property values: the higher the property values, the less they receive from the state. Because Jefferson County is predicting an overall increase in property values based on new assessments, overall SEEK funding is predicted to decline.

Funding for schools come from federal, state and local sources. Before the pandemic, district officials had hoped state lawmakers would increase the SEEK base rate, which would have eased the burden on local sources. But after the pandemic hit, state lawmakers declined to increase its share. The base rate for SEEK remains at $4,000 per student.

The tentative budget does not account for the 7-cent increase in local property taxes approved by board members on May 21. That increase is subject to recall by referendum, and efforts are already under way to get the increase on the November ballot.

When it comes to the current fiscal year, the district has been able to find some savings, and is working out how it will spend about $35 million dollars in immediate federal relief through the CARES Act. Here are the costs for FY 2020 the district says are associated with the pandemic:

  • Shipping Chromebooks — $485,000
    Chromebook distribution — $58,000
    Printing Nontraditional instruction (NTI) documents — $93,961
    Lessons & Choice Boards distribution — $27,000
    Hot spot purchase & distribution budget — $871,200
    Decrease in interest — $1,000,000
    Decrease in occupational tax revenue — $ 8,290,000

New initiatives, expenses

While the district is bracing for the multi-million-dollar hit, next year’s tentative budget moves forward with several new initiatives, including:

  • A new teacher residency program – $1.8 million
    Restoration of annual facilities improvement fund – $1.6 million
    Increase set-aside for school safety – $1.4 million ($2.4 million total)
    Compassionate School Program – $1.2 million
    Eight new Exceptional Child Education (ECE, or special education) classrooms – $1.1 million
    Increase in ECE infrastructure – $849,520
    Increase in Backpack League Teacher Program (summer learning) – $500,000
    Additional support for high-needs schools – $329,000

JCPS chief financial officer Cordelia Hardin said the district will have more information in September on potential costs of the pandemic and a better idea of what a federal aid package could look like.

Another budget work session is set for Sept. 15. The final budget is scheduled to be submitted for approval on Sept. 29.

 

 

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.