Eagle County Schools lands $4M in federal COVID-19 relief funds
Money earmarked for dealing with pandemic
More than $4 million in federal relief dollars are being earmarked for local public schools to help cover some of the cost of coping with COVID-19.
It’s one-time money and cannot be used to cover the expected cut in state funding stemming from the coronavirus economic crash.
Eagle County Schools’ $4,045,671 is part of $510 million in federal money for Colorado’s K-12 schools, and another $450 million for public colleges and universities.
The money must be used to comply with state and local public health orders, including reconfiguring classrooms and buildings, monitoring student health, smaller class sizes, and increased social distancing, among other things.
“It’s in the bank and we’re glad to have it,” said Sandra Muchler, the district’s chief operations officer. “It’s not a windfall, but it’s certainly helpful.”
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The CARES Act money is 0.6% of the school district’s general fund, Mutchler said.
Cash to cope with COVID-19
When school buildings closed March 16, the school district kept staffers such as preschool teachers, transportation and food service workers on the payroll.
The 2020-21 school year is scheduled to begin in mid-August, although what form that will take probably won’t be determined for another month. In a presentation Wednesday to the school board, Mutchler said the district expects to spend more to limit the transmission of the COVID-19 virus among students and faculty. That means increased cleaning and sanitation.
The district will also have to spend more money to monitor student health when students come back to school in August, whatever form the school day takes.
District officials will explore whether those and other COVID-19 expenses can be paid with the $4 million federal grant, Mutchler said.
The school district also landed $488,367 from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. That money must be used to support distance learning and other COVID-19 related expenses, Mutchler said.
Supporting Fair Tax Colorado
The school board also voted to support the proposed Fair Tax Colorado measure that Colorado voters will decide in November. Ballot Initiative 271 is projected to raise $2 billion. Of that, half would go to K-12 education.
The school district said Fair Tax Colorado would repeal the constitutional requirement that all taxable net income be taxed at one rate and create a tiered tax structure where:
- 100% of Coloradans receive a tax cut on the first $250,000 in taxable income as it lowers the current 4.63 percent tax to 4.58 percent.
- Taxpayers across all income levels will pay a more equal portion of their income in state and local taxes.
- Establish a 25-member Fair Tax Commission, to include representatives of state government, local government, tax practitioners, business owners, and the public. The Commission is required to report on the effects of the state income tax rate structure on revenue, the income distribution, and the state business climate, and to recommend modifications.
“Fair Tax Colorado will provide desperately needed funding to support schools as they weather the economic toll of the global pandemic by assisting schools in providing students educational opportunities to prepare them for success in college, career, and life,” the school board’s resolution of support said.
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