Area schools to receive stimulus funding

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Area schools have received preliminary figures on funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), better known as stimulus funding.

School superintendents, Pam Castor, Manila; Tommy Knight, Riverside; and George Edd Holland, Buffalo Island Central; have attended several meetings receiving information on guidelines.

Manila School Superintendent Pam Castor will be reviewing paperwork received on the stimulus funding. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Castor said the one time funding has a lot of regulations.

"Basically, we have a four tiered guideline," she said.

The AARA filters for use of the funding are: Will it invest in the economy? Is it a one-time, short-term (no longer than two years) investment with long-term benefits? Is the expenditure allowable under the funding mechanism (Title I, IDEA, SFSC)? Will the program, activity or item proposed lead to improved student academic achievement?

"The figures I received are a little more than I had expected," Castor said. "The numbers I have received are $530,006 Stabilization; $247,564, IDEA; and $150,132, Title I, for a total of $927,702.

Castor said the special education IDEA funding and Title I funding will fall under the same regulations and guidelines as funding for these programs each year.

"It looks as if the funds will be divided with districts receiving five percent initially; 45 percent during the summer and the remaining 50 percent in October."

Castor pointed out districts will have to be extremely careful to meet all of the government guidelines. Expenditures must be approved.

"This will benefit schools and economy of the state as a whole," Castor said. "Other changes are coming and we will have to watch the budget closely."

Riverside Superintendent Tommy Knight said the figures he has received on Riverside funding amounts include $715,000 for Stabilization; $275,000 for Title I, and $194,000 for IDEA.

"It as more than I expected," Knight said. "The Stabilization was a little more than I had expected."

Riverside is in the process of building a new $12 million junior and senior high facility.

"We will probably not use the stimulus funding in conjunction with the building," he said. "If we put any federal money in the building project, it will have to be under the Davis/Bacon Act federal guidelines and it would add to the total cost of the building. Fortunately the timeline may allow us to use some of the funds in other areas to improve the new facility. Eventually we want to replace the east elementary building. There are things needed to be done there."

The stimulus funds must be used in two years.

"The guidelines make it more challenging but it is a good problem to have," Knight said. "It is good for the schools. I have been talking with the principals about the needs on different campuses and the district."

Superintendent Gorge Edd Holland said he had received three printouts with figures but the latest one is the first to come from the Department of Education.

The latest figures he received include $416,845 in Stabilization; $198,812 in IDEA (Special Education) and $125,54 in Title One.

"There are a lot of things we would like to do but may not be allowed," he said. "Right now there seems to be more questions than answers. We have been cautioned to avoid funding anything the district would not be able to continue funding at the end of the two years."

Holland said they have been talking about several projects including more equipment for school nurses, technology, making the older buildings more handicapped accessible, after school projects for student and more.

"We will have to stay within the guidelines," he said. "I will be working with the principals. The bottom line is we are going to look for ways to improve student achievements and teacher effectiveness. That is why the money is there. The additional funding will be to benefit to the students. We can use the funding to supplement projects and programs but it cannot be used to initiate something already required by law."

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