We are still in the infancy of the 2020-2021 school year so it is pure conjecture to estimate the fiscal impact the district will encumber as a result of COVID-19. Yet, suffice to say our costs will likely far exceed those monies that have been distributed as part of the CARES Act. At the onset of the pandemic, Congress acted quickly to infuse funds into the economy [and schools] to combat the virus. Unfortunately a second round of aid languishes, likely until after the election.
In recent days, the GEER money has become available to districts and is designed primarily to address technology infrastructure and connectivity in our district. If you remember over the summer when we conducted a technology survey to see if you had internet at home, this is why we were asking those questions. Our plan is to purchase hotspots for families that currently don't have internet available in the home. The algorithm we are using to determine eligibility mirrors our free and reduced lunch percentages. If you would like access to one of these hotspots, please contact us via email with the subject line 'hotspot'. We are purchasing these devices on demand and 'as needed' so it may take a few days to get you the needed access.
Considering that the knowns described above have or will exhaust the allocations that have already been made available to us, we also have to consider the unknowns. The big one that we are going to have a difficult time getting our arms around is substitute costs. Substitute costs consider not only the cost of the substitute or temporary employee's wages, but also the cost of the permanent employee. In the majority of cases the permanent employee is eligible for paid time off. Even if they had exhausted the paid time off allocated by the district as a benefit of employment, the CARES act grants employees an additional 10 days of paid leave. There was no revenue provided as part of the Act to offset this added expense.
Luckily we have the cash reserves on hand to weather the storm. With the completion of our certified annual report last week, our subsequent report of fiscal health has been published on the district website. What the report finds is that our cash reserve remains full, tax rates are on the decline, and our unspent balance continues to rise. This puts the district in a good position in light of unpredictable funding from the state, and particularly since we will be in a continued position to manage unbudgeted expenditures that have come about as a result of COVID-19.