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GFPS planning for financial loss with ESSER funds coming to an end

GFPS District Office
Posted at 4:57 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 18:57:14-04

The Great Falls Public School district (GFPS) will be seeing some financial changes in the following year, due to federal funds from Covid response and the CARES Act coming to an end in the fall.

With a substantial amount of federal funds coming to an end, school administrators, as well as community members, have some concerns.

“We talk about them consistently in our cabinet level meetings and very openly within our leadership. I will, of course, move into a different role as the superintendent and have community level conversations that I don't normally have on the broad scale of my current position, but those conversations that we have now naturally within our leadership group will continue to happen,” said Heather Hoyer, executive director of student achievement for the east region.

The GFPS administrators believe in transparency and keeping the community regularly informed on financial decisions and happenings within the district, as well as changes coming up.

“The big change that's happening this year is our federal ESSER funds run out, and those funds that we had to prevent, prepare for and respond to the covid 19 pandemic. Their end of life is September of 24,” said Lance Boyd, federal programs director for GFPS.

“Right now, Great Falls Public Schools has been, in my opinion, very fiscally responsible with the ESSER money. When it came in, it allowed us to provide services to students and families during a time of crisis, which was the intent of the money,” said Hoyer. “Because of past experiences that were hard, we were able to see that fiscal cliff coming forward. We've talked about it, I think for the last 2 or 3 years, all the way down to our principals, our associate principals and our teachers.”

With the prior knowledge of the Covid and CARE Act funds coming to end, GFPS planned ahead with where and what the funds would be allocated for throughout the 4 years.

“Where we're at, as we understand, our federal funds are going away. We knew that when we received them, they were one time only. We knew there was an end date on them so we, I think, planned very wisely on how we use those so that the impact when they were gone, wouldn't hit the district super hard,” said Brian Patrick, director of business operations for GFPS.

With these concerns in mind, they will continue to evaluate the future budget regularly and decide whether or not a levy will be necessary. As of right now, GFPS is fiscally prepared for the next school year.

“The general fund budget is based on student enrollment and our student enrollment has been flat and slightly declining, so that has an impact on our district,” Patrick said. “But I think, as we look at it, we felt that this year wasn't a good year to go out for a levy, we have enough funds to make it one more year. And then next year, we'll evaluate where we stand on the budget and how that'll shake out.”

GFPS has experienced heavy financial loss in the past and were able to plan ahead accordingly.

“Not only did all the money go away that was given, but then the federal money declined, so we took that into account as we prepared and used this money, and tried to use it wisely, and set our district up to take care of some things that needed to be taken care of. So that when the money's gone, we're not immediately asking for more money,” Patrick explained.

Administrators will continue to evaluate the financial situation, and we will update you as we know more.