Pandemic expenses push school budget into red

District officials explore options to offset projected deficit of $432,000 as they fine-tune spending plan
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Grafton School District is facing a $432,000 deficit for the 2020-21 school year, mostly due to Covid-19-related expenses. 

During Monday’s School Board meeting, Business Services Director Topher Adams told the board that next year’s school budget calls for $730,845 in additional expenditures.

“We have some space in our revenue budget to cover some of those costs,” Adams said, noting that amount totals approximately $299,000. 

The vast majority of the expenditure increase is related to Covid-19 expenses that include adding four substitute teachers, mitigation efforts, air quality, cleaning and adding health aides, Adams said. 

Other expenditures include flexible classroom furniture and technology for online learning.

Adams said the district is waiting to learn if there will be a budget repair bill that could reduce the district’s revenue by $630,000, but that most likely won’t be determined until after the November election.

“We do have the potential of looking at $1,000,000 deficit that we won’t know about until after we approve the final budget,” he said.

“The budget repair bill most likely won’t be discussed until after the election. No one is going to run at the state level for re-election on how much they might cut from schools.”

Adams said the district could receive federal stimulus funds. “It’s to be determined. It’s kind of like reading the tea leaves at this point,” he said. 

The board is weighing options for next year’s budget, which includes $170,000 for health insurance benefits, $115,500 for purchasing Chromebooks and $193,000 for salary increases.

Adams said the health benefits will be decided in October. Decisions regarding general salary increases and buying Chromebooks could be decided in January or spring once the budget becomes more clear.

Adams said the district could tap into its fund balance, which has about $836,000 for spending. 

“Any remaining shortfall can be covered with the use of the fund balance,” Adams said.

The Finance Committee will meet Monday, Sept. 14. Adams said he will present additional budget updates, including an estimated tax levy and mill rate and review of a health insurance renewal quote if it is available.

The committee will also review the spending plan that will be presented at the district’s annual meeting on Monday, Sept. 28.

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