By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON —
The District 80 Board made optimistic changes to its budget at a recent meeting due to considerable improvements made after it received its economic stimulus funds.
“I am very pleased with the stimulus money we got this year,” said Mt. Vernon City Schools District 80 superintendent Dr. Kevin Settle. “Our revenues went up to the point where we’re now in the positive in the education fund by $236 thousand.”
The district received a little more than $1 million in economic stimulus funds, Settle said, and when it arrived it was a pleasant surprise to the district.
“There had been talk about stimulus money since last January,” he said. “It was so slow in coming; we were supposed to hear about it in April, then in June, and then in July. It put a lot of our projects on delay, because we couldn’t purchase the things we needed until it came through... It was just, cross our fingers, we kept saying, ‘We’re gonna get it, we’re gonna get it.’ and it came through.
“I’m not complaining in retrospect, though, because we’re a lot better off now than we would be without it.”
At a recent District 80 board meeting, Settle said he was optimistic that the district budget would improve even further by the end of June, because the district was informed by the state that they will receive their fourth quarter categorical payments this week.
“The state seems to have realized finally that the schools are getting a little strapped for cash,” he said. “This is going to be a good budget for us.”
Categorical payments are reimbursements to schools from the state for a variety of services, including transportation, special education and other services schools are mandated to have available.
The district will receive the fourth quarter categoricals, but the outlook on missing second and third quarter categoricals remains dim, Settle said, because the state found a different revenue source for the fourth quarter categorical payments that could not be used for the others.
The news that District 80 will receive its fourth quarter payments comes as a relief to the district as without the stimulus funds and categorical payments, the school district faced a deficit of $2.5 million.
The deficit would have been covered by a surplus from the past three years, Settle said, but once the district’s surplus ran out, drastic cuts to staff, programs, travel and supplies were planned.