Hobart to donate unused CARES Act funds to West De Pere schools
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – Another school district in the area will be the beneficiary of a municipality’s unused Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.
The Hobart village board agreed Tuesday, Oct. 6, to donate up to $40,000 worth of document cameras and Chromebooks to the School District of West De Pere by purchasing those items with the village’s unused CARES Act allocation.
Village Administrator Aaron Kramer said Hobart was allocated around $156,000 related to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but to date has been reimbursed only about $8,000 with the village’s first request for CARES Act funds.
“There will be more, I can assure you, there will be some more (reimbursable) expenses, but we are never going to get close (to $156,000),” he said.
Village Clerk-Treasurer Erica Berger said she conservatively estimates Hobart will have $80,000 of its allocation left over.
Because Hobart is split between two school districts, Kramer said he also tried to contact Pulaski’s superintendent, but did not hear back from Allison Space prior to the board meeting.
West De Pere Superintendent Dennis Krueger, who appeared before the board, said the school district’s allocation of around $190,000 has already been expended.
“With (personal protection equipment) and masks, and hand sanitizers and cleaning stations, and for all the classrooms and all the kids, it didn’t take long to go through those dollars and then a lot more,” he said.
Krueger said the district purchased additional Wi-Fi hot spots to address issues of poor or no internet access, but they have a monthly fee and wouldn’t make good requests for CARES Act funds.
“We need more document cameras for the teachers to teach more effectively,” he said. “We need more computers right now. We have students at home.”
The idea of municipalities donating unused funds came from an informational linkage meeting the Howard-Suamico School District hosted Aug. 17, when Sen. Rob Cowles suggested working with the state to make funds allocated to local governments available to school districts.
In a letter he sent to local school district leaders, Cowles said he confirmed with the Wisconsin Department of Administration that local governments may purchase reimbursable equipment or supplies using their grant allocations and donate the materials to local school districts, rather than return the unused amount to the state.
Krueger said he recommended donating computers and document cameras, which are items that will be around for years to come.
“These are things, I think, the people in the Village of Hobart can feel good about, rather than ‘Oh, we bought them more hand sanitizer… or more masks,’” he said.
Krueger said the West De Pere district also contacted the Town of Lawrence, City of De Pere and Town of Oneida about possibly donating items with their unused CARES Act allocation.
“Lawrence and Hobart have responded,” he said.
Kramer said he recommended allocating up to $40,000 to West De Pere for document cameras and Chromebooks to also provide the Pulaski district an opportunity to request CARES Act funds from the village with approximately another $40,000 available.
However, if Pulaski wouldn’t respond after a second attempt to contact the district, Village President Rich Heidel suggested contributing more unused funds to West De Pere.