By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack County Public Schools’ financial outlook has appeared to improve since about two weeks ago, when Finance Director Beth Onley announced that the fiscal year 2021 budget could experience a shortfall of up to $1.6 million.
Multiple revenue losses were predicted due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, but the FY 2020 budget will have a surplus, Onley said, “because essentially we stopped operating on March 13,” when schools were closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As of March 19, there was nearly $3.8 million left in the FY 2020 operating budget.
That doesn’t mean the school division has that much to spend, because revenue for the current school year is expected to decrease $507,000. That includes a sales tax revenue loss of $405,000.
“We really won’t know how much that is going to plunge until May 31 posting,” Onley said.
But some one-time expenditures that were planned for next year will be made this year, including funding for school buses, textbooks, the Metompkin Elementary sewer project, and Tangier Combined School’s steps and ramp.
Onley also wants to set aside $250,000 for the food service department. Accomack schools’ food service program will receive no additional revenue this year, and the free meals provided since schools closed were not reimbursed at the standard rate by the federal government.
Food supplies must be replenished before students return to school, assuming classes resume in the fall, and meal reimbursements will not resume until mid-October.
After the expenditures are made, Accomack schools will be left with a budget surplus of about $1.5 million for FY 2020.
The school division is normally allowed to end the school year with a budget surplus of less than 1.25%, which would equal less than $700,000 in FY 2020.
Onley will ask Accomack supervisors for a waiver that will allow the school division to carry forward the remaining $1.5 million into the next fiscal year.
No decision has been made yet about how to spend the $1.7 million Accomack schools will receive from the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).