The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 6-3 Tuesday to send $12 million from the second round of federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding to the school system.
The board voted earlier this month to set aside the appropriation until county public school officials provided more expenditure details.
In a response, school officials said the funding would go to cover “overtime, temporary staffing and other compensation.”
Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams followed that response with a detailed letter, but several supervisors were still scratching their heads, including Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin), Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large). The three voted in opposition of the motion.
“The amount of detail given I find adequate, given the uncertainty that we’re all facing,” Leesburg Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D) said. “And I’ll say what I’ve said to a constituent recently: ‘Nothing about any of this is fair.’ We’re making decisions without adequate information on all fronts all the time these days, which I think is why everybody’s so stressed out. But I think $12 million is a reasonable amount for what they have outlined they need to use it for, so I’m happy to support it.”
Williams said in a Sept. 8 letter that $5.3 million in question will cover custodians working overtime to provide the additional cleaning at the schools.
Williams noted that the schools will be equipped with two care rooms requiring the support of additional health care workers and will need additional substitute teachers and other part-time support to assist with various activities, such as testing and manning telephone hotlines.
The rest of the funding will go toward personal protective equipment, facility and workplace modification, technology and other services, according to county staff.
Multiple supervisors expressed concerns with the superintendent’s response and the absence of a school system representative on hand Tuesday to answer questions.
“We have a responsibility to kind of know where [the funding] is going,” Kershner said. “We have kind of a general idea, but we really don’t have anyone here from the School Board to say, ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to be spent.’ We don’t have opportunities to ask those questions here in an open setting like it should be done in a public way. So, I’m very uncomfortable with the process ... ”
Buffington said he sent numerous emails trying to get answers on some of his spending questions.
“If you can’t send someone here, I will vote no every time from now on — to include the regular full School Board budget,” he said.
Earlier this month, the board accepted $36 million though the second round of federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding.
Funding will go to support the seven incorporated towns ($6 million altogether) as well as childcare program services in the county ($16 million).
Any unused coronavirus relief funds must be returned to the commonwealth, according to county staff.
Loudoun has received more than $72 million in CARES Act funding this year, county staff said. After considering allocations to the seven incorporated towns and LCPS, nearly $48 million is available to the county to offset eligible expenses.
Similar to accepting the $36 million in May, Loudoun will be required to submit a new certification form and complete an online survey regarding how it spends the money.
Coronavirus relief funds are considered “one-time” monies and should not be used for ongoing services or base operations, according to a state finance department memo. Because the funds must be spent by Dec. 30, localities are advised not to create services with expenses beyond that period.