the past month, I’ve been using my weekly article to shed some light on
different aspects of our finances in the school district in an attempt to give
you an overview of where we are with revenues and expenses. I want to emphasize
that if any taxpayer has a question about anything I’ve written or would like
to discuss any topic more in-depth, please give me a phone call. I would be
glad to sit down with anyone to discuss the finances of our school district. This
week, I will overview federal stimulus funds and how those impact us locally.
Basically, we received three different “pots” of federal stimulus funds. None of these funds came to us directly. They were all filtered through the Ohio Department of Education. The first type of federal funds we have been receiving are called State Foundation Stabilization Funds, or SFSF money. Each month, we receive State Foundation money. This is the “state’s share” of funding our school system. About 54% of our revenue comes from State Foundation payments. Because of the decrease in state revenues (which I covered in an earlier article), the state was falling short in being able to fill their State Foundation payments to school districts, so they filled that gap with federal stimulus dollars. This fiscal year, we will receive about $261,000 in SFSF funds. But please note, these are not extra funds at all. These are federal stimulus dollars the state is using to make their payments to school districts. Legislators are using federal stimulus dollars to meet their state obligation. So in the end, for us, it’s a break-even proposition. We’re not receiving any additional Foundation funds at all.
The second type of federal stimulus funds we are receiving is Title I funds. In general, we receive Title I funds each year. The main use of Title I funds is to improve reading for students in kindergarten through third grade. We receive a little over $100,000 in Title I funds each year, and we use these funds to pay for our Title I tutors, for instructional supplies, and for professional development. However, we have received additional Title funds totaling almost $69,000 as part of the federal stimulus package. This additional money is for use this fiscal year and next fiscal year, so these funds are available to us through the summer of 2011. We have not started using the Title I stimulus funds yet, as our regular Title funds are covering our needs to this point. But we will be using these stimulus funds throughout the rest of this year and next year for things such as after-school and summer programs and needed instructional supplies.
The third type of federal stimulus funds is related to special education. Each year, we receive federal IDEA Part B funds. This money goes directly to the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center (NwOESC) to pay for services they provide to us, such as school psychologist services, preschool services, speech services, and more. As part of the federal stimulus program, we have received additional IDEA Part B funds totaling over $220,000. We can use up to 50% of these funds to “supplant” services that we are already providing, meaning that we can use about half to pay our annual bill to the NwOESC, which helps out our general fund. However, the other 50% must be used to “supplement” our special education program, meaning that we must use the money for additional services and supplies over and beyond what we’re already doing.
Since these funds are only available to us this school year and next school year, we don’t want to use the money to fund new positions, as we would not be able to continue funding those positions once the stimulus dollars are gone. So as we’ve budgeted this money, we have tried to focus on purchases that would have a positive long-term impact for our district. We are using part of the money to buy additional Smartboards for our classrooms. The interactive Smartboard is an important component of a Twenty-first Century classroom and is also helpful to special education students because it helps visual and kinesthetic learners. Using the additional IDEA money, we will have 100% of our classrooms equipped with Smartboards. In addition, we are looking to purchase a small bus that can be used for our Defiance route, which transports students to the Independence Education Center and Multiply Disabled Units that are housed in Defiance. A small bus on a van chassis, fueled by gas instead of diesel, would be the most economical way to transport students to these units.
Through the use of federal stimulus funds that have come in the form of SFSF money in our Foundation payments, additional Title money, and additional IDEA Part B money for our special education programs, we have been able to maintain programs, while at the same time, offering some additional opportunities and supplies for students we otherwise would not have been able to afford.