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Ashwaubenon, West De Pere districts to receive CARES Act donations

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – The two school districts in the village will receive Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act donations.

The Ashwaubenon village board passed a motion last month to purchase items to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which are reimbursable under the CARES Act, and donate $10,000 worth of them to the Ashwaubenon School District and another $2,500 to the West De Pere school district.

Finance Director Greg Wenholz said the village is eligible to receive $274,427 worth of reimbursements from the state through the CARES Act.

“Those funds are to be used to help offset expenditures related to the COVID pandemic – PPE (personal protective equipment), sanitizer, other types of equipment,” he said. “It can also be used for time for public safety, emergency worker, those types of things that are unbudgeted, if you will.”

Wenholz said the village is in a position to use all those CARES Act funds – a big reason it will be able to balance its budget this year – but there has been an effort by school districts throughout the state to request additional CARES Act funds from local municipalities to help cover expenses from virtual learning.

“Ashwaubenon School District and the West De Pere school district both reached out to the village, asking, ‘Hey, if you have any funds available, we would certainly appreciate anything,’” he said.

Though village officials believe they could make use of the CARES Act funds, Wenholz said “we felt it would be something nice to do” by donating reimbursable items to the two school districts.

“It may not seem like a lot of money, but I did talk to both school districts and they’re extremely appreciative of anything we can do,” he said.

Wenholz said the reason for the difference in the amounts being donated to the districts is because they are being allocated based on equalized value for the portions of the districts within the village.

He said he spoke with Keith Lucius, business director for the Ashwaubenon schools, which have different technology needs and could also make use of PPE.

“They had approached us, probably about two months ago, asking (about donating funds), so they had some things already lined up, hoping we’d be able to get something for them,” Wenholz said. “The West De Pere school district is looking at specifically getting more technology, I think, some real basic iPads for their grade school kids who meet (for) virtual learning, so they’re able to buy whatever they can get out of that.”

Wenholz said the districts will send him invoices for the items to be paid for through the village.

West De Pere also requested CARES Act donations from other municipalities where the district is located.

For example, the Hobart village board Oct. 6 approved donating up to $40,000 worth of document cameras and Chromebooks to West De Pere from the portion of Hobart’s CARES Act allocation it expects to be left over.

Hobart’s board Oct. 20 also authorized CARES Act donations in the same amount to the Pulaski school district for purchasing monitors and stylus pens.

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 the district.

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.

The village boards in Howard and Suamico previously approved motions to donate items purchased with unused CARES Act funds to the Howard-Suamico School District.

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