Superior Schools To Cover Budget Deficit With COVID Funds
As proposed, the 2022-2023 budget for the Superior School District ends up in the red; unbalanced; running a deficit. In order to "right-side" that budget and make it solvent, board members will tap federal COVID-19 funds.
A variety of different issues have combined to create the budget problems for the Superior School District.
Details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall] outline the issues. At the same time that the State of Wisconsin offered no increase in per pupil aid, the district also saw a general overall decrease in enrollment numbers. The COVID-19 Pandemic shifted the way that many parents and families looked at public education, home schooling, etc; the decrease is part of a recent trend.
In order to allow solvency, the Superior School District will "dip...into federal COVID-19 relief dollars to balance the budget". Superior's Director of Business Services Shannon Grindell explains:
"We decreased the levy by $2.75 million but we increased our equalization aid by $1.5 million so there's still a gao there, right? How we're going to cover that gap is with ESSER funds. That's how we've used the ESSER funds to balance our budget this year."
Those ESSER funds source from the federal relief funds provided to public schools as a result of the pandemic fallout. They're "funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act" and their main goal is "to prevent, prepare, and respond to COVID-19 and its impact on students".
Even as it helped to create a deficit, the district is proud that property taxes - at least the portion that the school district controls - won't rise. For the 2022-2023 school year, the Superior School Board has established a mill rate of $6.75 - which is "a $2 drop from last year".
A flat or reduced mill rate is the ultimate goal for the district. Grindell elaborates:
"The main goal for our office is to keep that mill rate flat, year after year. That's kind of what you want to see because then you know that when it's sent out to the constituents and taxpayers that they're not going to see those large fluctuations."
The one looming element in that equation is if the nation - or the region - dips into a recession. If that were to happen, school officials expect that the "mill rate's going to skyrocket a little".