Volusia County Schools projects $10.8 million loss in funding

The district is looking closely at federal relief dollars to help fill the gap.

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Volusia County Schools is projected to lose $10.8 million in Florida Education Finance Program funding, a result of students having chosen virtual instruction during the 2020-2021 school year.

Last fiscal year, the district received $468.8 million in FEFP funding, according to a presentation at the Volusia County Schools meeting on Tuesday, May 25. This upcoming fiscal year, the district expects that funding to drop to $458 million, for a 2.36% reduction. Though significant, the possible funding loss is less than the $17.9 million estimate the district presented to the board in September 2020.

"What it says to me is that our needs are greater than the funding we're receiving," Board Chair Linda Cuthbert said. "Our needs for salaries, our needs for curriculums, programs, for our one-to-one...It's very difficult to tighten one's budget and every year we do so."

Lisa Snead, budget director for Volusia County Schools, said that as a result of the decline of FEFP funding, the district is looking closely at another funding source: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, a fund created by Congress to provide coronavirus aid dollars to state departments, to be distributed to local education agencies, according to the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Volusia County Schools was awarded $15.4 million in ESSER I funds, $64.1 million in ESSER II funds and expects an additional $149 million from ESSER III funds. These funds will need to be shared with charter schools. 

School Board Member Jamie Haynes said she thinks they're all hoping enrollment projections are better than what the district is estimating now, but that they as board members should also be playing a role in improving those numbers.

"I think what we have to do is we have to get some positive messages out there and encourage families to bring their kids back in to school," Haynes said. "If they don't, the money is not going to come back in."

School Board Member Ruben Colon requested the district bring back a balanced budget in the fall. He said they should spend what the district thinks it will have.

"If the state requires a balanced budget, then why wouldn't we?" Colon said. "I know that sounds really rough because it's all a guessing game, but I'd rather amend one way than send out the wrong message to the community."

Volusia County Schools Superintendent Scott Fritz said the district is being conservative, and cautioned against bringing back a balanced budget, as a majority of the budget goes toward payroll. 

"We lost $10.8 millon of FTE this year," Fritz sad. "So that means if we're going to balance that, we've got to cut $10.8 million somewhere." 


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