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Green Bay school finances affected by pandemic

By Rich Palzewic
Staff Writer

GREEN BAY – At its Monday, April 27, virtual meeting, the Green Bay school board received an update on school finances amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since schools closed March 13, the district’s refrigerated trucks have been delivering meals to 14 sites in the district,” said Pete Ross, chief of operations. “More than 240,000 meals have been served using 20 volunteers. Capacity is at its maximum due to the number of refrigerated trucks we have.”

Adding a week off for spring break, Ross said because most of March was already completed and April is finished, it’s too early to tell what expenditures/savings in school finances the district has seen.

“The data coming in needs to be solidified,” he said. “I need to get more concrete information to the board. When April is finished, numbers will become more solid concerning extra expenditures or savings for the district due to the COVID crisis.”

Ross said the district is saving money on electricity.

But, he said because of the contract with the transportation company, costs haven’t been reduced in that area.

“We have to continue to pay the transportation company through the COVID crisis,” he said. “But, we have insisted the company continue to pay the bus drivers. Getting drivers is extremely challenging, so we want to make sure they get paid through the crisis so there’s less of a chance we’ll have a shortage at the beginning of the next school year.”

He also discussed the impact of unemployment compensation on school finances.

“Although we haven’t technically laid off any of our permanent employees, we currently have substitute teachers filing for unemployment,” said Ross. “If the current situation would continue for a long time, the total bill for unemployment could potentially be $340,000. I hope the cost would be picked up by the federal government, but think of the scale. There are substitute teachers all across the country in the same situation filing for unemployment in their states. The amount of money the federal government could potentially pay to states to make them whole is staggering.”

Ross said the district is currently saving money on insurance costs, but that could change when the pandemic subsides.

“As an example, clinics are closed and routine surgeries are being put off,” he said. “As a result, the charges against our self-funding insurance plan have gone down significantly over the past few months. When things open again, there will be pent-up demand for things being put off, and our costs will skyrocket in the next fiscal year.”

Ross said the district has already approved a zero-percent increase in health insurance and has asked its auditors to allow a larger fund balance to be carried over to next year to offset increased costs.

“Another expense we are seeing is family members of district employees who were laid off by other employers coming to the district’s plan,” he said. “We aren’t allowed through our plan to deny coverage for individuals who have lost coverage elsewhere. We will have more souls on our plan.”

In other news, the board began the meeting by electing Eric Vanden Heuvel president.

“I’m honored and excited to be nominated to serve as the school board president,” said Vanden Heuvel. “I look forward to continuing my service to the students, families, staff and the community of the Green Bay Area Public School District. As president, it will be my goal to unite people around the vision to help all students find success. I realize this vision is monumental, but we will fall short if we focus on anything other than student-centered solutions. Our district and public education, in general, will be facing unprecedented challenges in the upcoming months and years.”

Outgoing president Brenda Warren said the school board president is mostly responsible for working closely with the superintendent to determine agendas, run the meetings, is a spokesperson to the media and listens to what’s coming in from board members/staff/community so issues can be addressed.

Kristina Shelton was elected vice president, Andrew Becker treasurer, Laura McCoy as clerk and Sandra Heller as secretary to the board.

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