Low costs of virtual learning result in $ 3.3 million surplus for Muskegon public schools

MUSKEGON, MI – Teaching students remotely for most of the school year has saved public schools in Muskegon a significant amount of money this year.

Muskegon closed the 2020-21 school year with a budget surplus of more than $ 3.3 million thanks to the low costs of e-learning alone amid the coronavirus pandemic. The district remained entirely virtual for most of the school year and began to gradually roll out face-to-face instruction for some students in March.

The district saved money on various expenses associated with in-person learning, such as bus services, cleaning, electricity, utilities and more, resulting in a huge surplus, said the Superintendent of Muskegon, Matthew Cortez.

The Muskegon School Board approved the final 2020-2021 budget at a school board meeting on Tuesday, June 29.

The year-end surplus was a huge turnaround from the $ 2.8 million deficit the district originally forecast last June before the 2020-21 school year.

RELATED: Find out how the coronavirus crisis affected school budgets in the Muskegon area

This deficit was mainly due to an expected reduction in the state’s school aid fund during the pandemic. Last summer, principals in Muskegon predicted a reduction of $ 650 per student in state funding. The district ended up receiving a base allowance of $ 8,182 per student this year, according to state data.

The surplus of $ 3.3 million was added to the balance of the district fund, or rainy day fund, which now stands at $ 8.5 million.

The district also approved its initial budget for the 2021-22 school year at Tuesday’s meeting. The biggest challenge with building next year’s budget is the uncertainty of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Cortez said.

“We don’t know if we’ll be completely back to normal, if COVID-19 is going to come back up, what the state is going to do with funding for schools – the state has a lot of money, but are they actually going to spend it in the way we need it? Cortez said.

“These questions are the hard part. So what we do is look at the things we know and we make conservative estimates of the things we don’t know.

While principals do not yet know how much per student funding they can expect from the state, educators expect funding for school assistance to increase thanks to an influx of federal dollars. pandemic relief and a state budget surplus.

Muskegon is forecasting an increase of $ 150 per student, which would generate an additional $ 532,500 for Muskegon public schools next year.

The district is forecasting a total of $ 51 million in incoming revenue for the next school year, about $ 640,000 more than the 2020-21 school year.

The budget includes $ 50 million in spending, about $ 3.2 million more than the district spent last year. The district is projecting a budget surplus of $ 674,424 for the 2021-2022 school year, which will bring the fund balance to $ 9.2 million, or 18% of annual revenues, at the end of the year.

Cortez said the district expects only a slight drop in enrollment of around 50 students next year, mainly due to declining birth rates and enrollment trends. This brings the district’s expected enrollment count to 3,550 for the 2021-22 school year.

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