Carson City school board OKs amended budget; COVID makes year tough to call
COVID-19’s impact on the Carson City School District’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget has been more profound than anyone might have guessed in recent months.
The district’s average daily enrollment numbers have declined, staffing costs are changing with personnel in fluctuation and total fund revenues will be decreasing. All in all, uncertainty looms over the district, chief financial officer Andrew Feuling reported Tuesday to the Board of Trustees.
“Nothing is trending in any way that makes sense,” he said.
The school board approved an augmented and amended budget for 2021 in a 6-0 vote, with Trustee Lupe Ramirez absent, after Feuling presented the latest audited financials at the Nov. 24 meeting.
The state requires each school district to submit an amended budget by the end of the year. It’s typically the time for staff to examine its key data that influences its capital the most, which includes the status of its average daily enrollment numbers. This year, with the pandemic affecting health for students and staff, the projections have gone from an ADE of 7,740 students back in May to about 7,407 for the second semester of the 2020-21 school year starting in January.
Based on an approximate 330 drop in students, per-pupil support has gone down from $7,308 to $7,305. This $3 difference – indicative of students leaving the district early and which happens annually, Feuling noted – ultimately adds up to a $2.5 million decrease in general fund revenues. Charter schools also are taking losses, and basic support services have dropped from an estimated $56.5 million to about $54.1 million.
Combined, general fund revenues have gone from $67.2 million to $64.7 million.
“Every dollar counts in these circumstances,” Feuling said.
The deficit comes out to about $1.9 million but he expects this won’t be the final number come June when the final budget is submitted to the board for approval. This also is up from earlier this year when the original figures indicated a $1.25 million deficit as enrollment numbers were waning from 2019.
Trustee Stacie Wilke-McCulloch asked how significant the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding contributed to CCSD’s budget overall. The board has kept this greatly needed respite in mind since July when it originally received $1.1 million from three among four sources of revenue. Now, two of those pots of CARES money, which had been dedicated to COVID-19 expenses such as cleaning supplies or personal protective equipment, must be spent down by Dec. 31. Afterward, administrators or teachers will have to wait on the state for any additional funds, Feuling said Wednesday.
Nutrition services also continues to be a concern for budgeting needs. At the start of the pandemic, the department began offering free lunch and breakfast for all students and their siblings age 18 and younger with meal pick-up in a “grab-n-go” format available at certain school sites. The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended the free meal program nationwide in September in an effort to reduce food insecurity among families needing free food. Meal boxes or packages from any school campus were made ready at their convenience even if their child wasn’t attending the site. The waiver then was continued in October and set through June as long as funding remained available.
The program continues to boost funding for the district for each child participating, Feuling said Tuesday, but those who are participating in Carson City have dropped off considerably since more families have turned to homeschooling, are distance learning now or are no longer enrolled.
It’s also created somewhat of a hardship to have students carry home meals on a daily or weekly basis in bags the district provides to students if parents are working and can’t afford daycare or supervision.
“This underscores the need to get these kids back in school,” board President Mike Walker said.