Both the Fulton County Health Center and the county’s school districts will benefit from the latest state-issued coronavirus relief funding.
The State Controlling Board has approved $471,930 for FCHC and the following amounts for the school districts: Archbold, $53,165; Delta, $61,630; Evergreen, $76,806; Fayette, $23,838; Pettisville, $24,462; Swanton, $65,581; and Wauseon, $86,486.
The funding is based on student enrollment, using a complex formula involving transportation, special needs students, English learners, and other factors. The Ohio Office of Budget and Management has earmarked the money for such needs as personal protective equipment, remote learning, and sanitation.
Funding is also available for disabled and economically-disadvantaged students.
District 47 State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), who announced the funding last week, said the money originates from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. He said the state realizes the financial strain its budget cuts have caused school districts.
“Our economy is taking a hard hit, and that’s directly correlated to a loss in tax revenue for local governments,” Merrin said. “This is what happens when you shut down the economy. The private sector not only loses funding but the governments that are supposed to provide services are affected.”
FCHC spokesperson Steve McCoy said the funding is needed. “Even with the return of outpatient and elective surgeries, there has still been a decrease in overall activities. We had a lot of expenses in March, April, and May. All of this helps with that,” he said.
McCoy said despite the fact that COVID-19 may be making people reluctant to seek help at FCHC “you still have to buy equipment, keep up-to-date with things. So yeah, (the funding) is needed.”
He said hospitals, physicians’ offices, and nursing homes across the U.S. are facing the same financial dilemmas due to the pandemic.
“The impact on health care has been dramatic. It’s just been the new normal,” McCoy said.
Swanton Local Schools Superintendent Chris Lake said the school district considers the support of any extra funding important.
“The money will definitely be put to good use to enhance our safety practices or whatever we need to do to make (returning to school) a good experience,” he said.
Currently, plans are being set to build COVID-19 safety measures into the district’s school buildings, Lake said. The district is working within the framework of a collaborative plan between the county’s school districts to reopen in August. Lake said the state funding will likely be used toward that purpose.
“We will gladly take it and find a way to put it to good use,” he said.
Pettisville schools had $72,904 in state funds cut from Fiscal Year 2019-20 and expects the same reduction for Fiscal Year 2020-21. Superintendent Steve Switzer said the state funding just announced will be welcome.
“With everything that is happening on the school finance side of things, any assistance is greatly appreciated and will be helpful,” he said.
Wauseon Village Exempted Schools Superintendent Troy Armstrong said, while funding through the State Controlling Board is greatly needed, it “doesn’t even come close to assisting with the $581,000 cut we’ve taken from the state already. Does it help? Yes. But we’re still $500,000 in the hole from the state.”
While Wauseon schools will receive the lion’s share of the controlling board’s assistance to the county’s school districts, it will cost the district about $50,000 alone to provide hand sanitizer for 150 classrooms for an entire academic year, Armstrong said.
He said part of the district’s allotment may go toward the approximately $36,000 cost of Chromebook laptops for kindergarten students in the event of remote learning. He said students in grades 1-12 already have them.
And while he acknowledges the need for the funding, Armstrong said he has another request: “I’d like the state to stop cutting public school budgets.”
Merrin said school administrators upset over the loss of state support should consider the pandemic’s effect on commerce.
“They should be upset that the businesses have been closed down and we have over a million people unemployed in this state,” he said. “If they want more government revenue then they should start being vocal and should start supporting our businesses being open. You can’t advocate for more money and then advocate for the city to be shut down. Those things don’t go together.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010