The Lebanon Special School District is confident it can keep all teachers on board for the 2020-21 school year despite flagging sales tax revenue amid COVID-19.
Director of Schools Scott Benson is asking all departments to send status quo budgets and identify two to three areas where expenses can be cut, and he said the school system also has a healthy fund balance from budgeting over the years.
“There’s a lot of cuts out there we can do before we get to the teachers and aides and stuff like that,” LSSD board Chairman Steve Jones said. “I want all of our teachers to know that they’re going to have a job … we’re in the business for the kids, we’re not in it for anything else.”
Benson said the district is also set to receive more than $540,000 through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, along with a projected increase in Basic Education Program (BEP) funding.
“That is based on our students, our enrollment, our attendance,” he said during the board’s meeting Monday. “Our April estimate is up almost $700,000 from this last year … if you look at the CARES Act and our BEP estimate, that’s already well over a million dollars that we didn’t have this past year.”
BEP funding is figured into school budgets every year, but the CARES Act represents a new funding source that LSSD plans to invest into technology for students and teachers. That decision is meant to address the possibility of schools remaining closed this fall.
“In looking to next year, we need to make sure that everybody has a device,” Benson said. “We need to make sure that everybody has access to the internet where they can function and communicate at home with our teachers and staff, to make that happen.”
Benson said the district has estimated more than 80% of its students have reliable connectivity without a phone, and they hope to figure out a clearer picture during the registration process in July.
The board also approved an agreement with Motorola to purchase 35 bus radios and 28 portable radios for approximately $147,000, which represents a districtwide communications system upgrade. LSSD Student Services Administrator Mike Kurtz said the school’s current radios are out of date and at times unusable, and he estimated the replacements should arrive within a few weeks of their order.
“If you’ve been in our central office or our schools, or you’re driving a bus, you can’t talk sometimes through our radio system because of the interference,” Student Services Administrator Mike Kurtz said. “I talked with the mechanic at the bus shop, he can do the installation. Lebanon Fire Department is going to program them all, so there’s no costs on the programming and no costs on the installation.”
After some discussion on the item, the board opted to pay the full amount with the order instead of entering a five-year payment plan because it cost roughly $18,000 more in interest.
The Lebanon Special School District did not set a date for its next board meeting after Monday’s proceedings, but discussed scheduling one for late June.