School board members approved a plan on Wednesday night to spend the $5.1 state emergency aid on mostly one-time expenditures and hiring 10 employees.
Under the plan, the district will spend $940,000, less than a fifth of the award, to hire 10 employees — 7 teachers, 2 kindergarten instructional assistants, and 1 nurse – and fund a dozen one-time expenses.
Among the key one-time expenses are $500,000 to upgrade science labs, $800,000 for middle school math textbooks, $975,029 for employee health benefits, $500,000 for lockdown mechanisms at three high schools, 620,000 for security cameras at four schools, and $250,000 on auditorium chairs at School 18.
“The allocations of the emergency aid allow the district to avoid raising the current year’s bottom line to such an extent that it impacts next year’s budget. The resolution passed last night reflects the priorities expressed by board members, provides for some much-needed one-time expenditures, and allows us to hire some critical staff,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer in a statement on Thursday. “Meanwhile, we still face the challenge of needing to provide our students with a thorough and efficient education in the midst of a severe lack of resources.”
Shafer wanted to hire 28 staff members, including 23 teachers, but the school board directed her to focus on one-time expenses. School board members worried about hiring employees in the winter and laying them off in the spring.
Last spring, the district laid off 128 employees, including 88 teachers, due to a budget shortfall. This led to 1,005 classes in the district with 30 or more students.
A similar scenario is taking shape as the district is in the process of putting together its budget for the next school year. School officials disclosed an almost $64 million budget shortfall in the 2020-21 school year budget.