Suamico board favors donating unused CARES Act funds to HSSD
By Kevin Boneske
SUAMICO – The village board wants to donate leftover funds Suamico won’t use for reimbursable COVID-19 expenses to the Howard-Suamico School District.
Village Administrator Alex Kaker said Suamico was allocated $207,040 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but he estimates the village won’t use approximately $100,000 of that allocation.
After about 45 minutes of discussion with four HSSD representatives present, the board passed a motion Monday, Sept. 21, to direct Kaker to work with school district staff and administration to come up with a list of items the district needs for the village to donate unused CARES Act funding.
The motion also calls for the list to be compiled for a vote at the board’s next meeting Oct. 5 and authorizes one project for reimbursement estimated to cost around $7,700, Wi-Fi service outside Suamico Elementary School, where those picking up students could be contacted to reduce the number of vehicles waiting and keep them off County Highway B.
“We have many more families picking up (students) than we ever had before,” said Suamico Elementary School Principal Ryan Welnetz. “We have a responsibility to get those kids safely moved to the cars and to also do the best we can to keep traffic off the county highway.”
Kaker said Suamico wouldn’t donate any of its CARES Act allocation to the district until the village is sure it won’t incur any additional reimbursable expenses related to COVID-19.
He said the idea of donating unused funds came from an informational linkage meeting the district hosted Aug. 17, when Sen. Rob Cowles suggested working with the state to make funds allocated to the village available to the school district.
Kaker said Cowles confirmed with the Wisconsin Department of Administration that villages may purchase reimbursable equipment or supplies using their grant allocations and donate the materials to a school district, rather than return the unused amount to the state.
The board debated what the village should donate with Suamico’s allocation.
The items district staff presented for possible reimbursement included those for use in the schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and outdoor Wi-Fi access.
Trustee Mike Schneider said installing outdoor Wi-Fi for all district schools, estimated to cost around $123,000, would be “nice to have, not a need to have.”
“The need to have are some of the things that are impacting your budget now,” he said.
Schneider called installing Wi-Fi outdoors, as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
“I just think, if we’re going to spend the money, let’s spend it the way it’s intended to be spent and help you out with the things that need to be done, not want to be done,” he said.
The district also presented possible reimbursable facility costs of $186,950 with items that include Plexiglas windows, cleaning wipes, electrostatic sprayers, hand sanitizer, face coverings, cafeteria tables and changing filters.
Superintendent Damian LaCroix said the district presented the village options for possible items to donate.
“Wi-Fi really is our best thinking around one of our priorities that we think represents a win-win-win,” he said. “Obviously, a win for the district for the reasons you heard, a win for the village in terms of getting traffic off the road, right, and probably a win for our community, too, in terms of Wi-Fi access, particularly for those families that maybe don’t have home-based internet access.”
LaCroix said items such as Plexiglas, electrostatic sprayers and hand sanitizer are top priorities in the district.
“Wi-Fi is a priority,” he said. “It’s not the top priority with the exception of Suamico (Elementary School) in relationship to the overall conversation tonight.”
LaCroix said he looks forward working with Kaker in putting together a list of items to donate to the district.
He said he doesn’t see the district coming back to the village with a $100,000 bill for outdoor Wi-Fi access.
The board’s action comes a week after the Howard village board voted to direct staff to work with the district and
State of Wisconsin to donate items that will be reimbursed by the state with CARES Act money.