What Impact Will COVID-19 Have on the Saline Area Schools Budget?

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 04/20/2020 - 01:20

Among the many uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is how it will impact school district budgets.

But it likely won't be good news.

Saline Area Schools Board of Education Trustee Dennis Valenti, chair of the district's finance committee, briefly addressed the topic at last week's meeting, which was held remotely using Zoom software.

Valenti said while the district will see some federal dollars, it probably won't be enough to offset lost revenue.

"Obviously this pandemic is going to negatively impact our current budget. It's probably going to have a bigger impact on the 2021-22," Valenti said.

The district is losing revenue in the athletic department and community education. In some cases, expenditures were made for programs that won't be offered.

"Yes, we will get stimulus dollars, but we're not going to be made whole," Valenti said.

The district's relatively low (compared to other districts) fund balance means the district doesn't have buffer some have.

"The much bigger option is going to come in 2021-22. We have fewer options than other districts because of our fund balance. We're going to have to deal with that. I think we're going to be in for some lean times," Valenti said. "But this is such an uncertain time. We don't know how the economy is going to recover. We'll get through this year. It's going to be tighter than otherwise, but big problems are coming up."

Board President Heidi Pfannes said the district has no choice but to wait to see how the pandemic affects the economy, and then how the economy affects state funding for education.

School districts often budget without the best information from the state, which provides most of the general fund dollars. The situation will be even more challenging this June, when the district sets its budget, Superintendent Scot Graden said.

"The reality is, it will be our best guess. I would just ask that the community and staff understand that we're going to do our best, but boy, we have never faced a scenario we are more uncertain about the number we're going to plug into a budget in June," Graden said.

Graden said the district might not have a good understanding of the budget impact until fall.

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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