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Select Board Transfers $650K CARES Act Funds To Schools For Covid-19 Costs

CARES Funds Must Be Used For Covid-19 Expenditures Or Returned To Federal Government
by Connie Sartini
The Groton Select Board voted unanimously to provide Groton-Dunstable Regional School District $650K from the $1.4 M received by Groton under the CARES Act. They also voted to provide $25,000 to Nashoba Valley Technical High School.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law that directs $2 trillion in funding to COVID-19 relief efforts. The CARES Act authorized $150 billion through the Coronavirus Relief Fund for state and local governments, including $2.7 billion for Massachusetts.
     These funds must be used by municipalities consistent with parameters established by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) and guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department.
     The Groton Dunstable School District Superintendent Dr. Laura Chesson went through a detailed presentation to the Select Board addressing the many needs of the District to address the actions that the district must take in order to implement plans for schools in the fall (See related story, Page One).
     Groton Finance Committee Chairman Bud Robertson cautioned that there would be a shortfall of $160,000 from the Country Club and the payment from Groton Electric Department (GELD) for $180,000. Haddad said that for next year, GELD will send in five payments instead of the usual four that will cover the $180,000. He added that Lawrence Academy sent in their PILOT late so those funds would double for next year.
     Selectman Josh Degen said he was concerned with tax bill receipts. “I don’t know what will happen and we need to be conservative now.”
     Finance Committee member Art Prest added, “The real problem will be receipts from meals taxes and room taxes. I am concerned that we might not get as much in taxes as we need. If we have a revenue shortfall, we are in trouble.”
     Groton Dunstable Regional School Committee Chairman Marlena Gilbert pointed out, “If people don’t get back to work, we will have a problem. If kids can’t get back to school, parents can’t get back to work.”
     Robertson asked how much was needed from the town in addition to the FEMA funds and CARES that the district already got. Gilbert said that there is no estimate, but that “bus transportation may only transport one third or half of the students. In addition, 35 percent of the parents said they would use buses.” There may need to be scheduling changes as well.”
     Dr. Chesson pointed out, “There are 225 students in the Special Ed. Program that also need PPE and extra technology.”
     Selectman Josh Degen pointed out that “the last page from Dr. Chesson’s presentation, shows an $800K shortfall of the $1.4M cost for the schools.” He said that not only do “we look at the CARES funds and see what we can do, but we need to see what Dunstable can do and what we can defer.”
     He asked Town Manager Mark Haddad if the same split can be used between Groton and Dunstable (approximately 77% for Groton and 23% for Dunstable). Haddad reported that there is $800K left in the CARES distribution with the monies recommended for the Groton Dunstable and Nashoba Tech schools. He added, “I need to worry about the CARES needs for the town.”
     Dr. Chesson said, “Close to the end of July/early August, we will get a sense from parents who will send their kids to school.”
     Prest stressed that there “is no way to keep little kids six feet apart. They go home to their family, perhaps grandparents. Other people come into town driving buses and maintenance and teachers that are not from Groton. I have serious concerns about this.”
     Gilbert asked the Board for “guidance from Groton on what the school district could expect for funding so that we can get through this collaboratively.”
     Haddad replied, “$650K for the schools, $295K from a special article at Fall Town Meeting and $234K from the Capital Stabilization Fund for the schools.” He said that there is about $1.1M available. Selectman Degen said he “was ok with the $600K, but we need a contingency. I don’t want to commit to unexpended tax capacity right now.”
     Following further discussion, the Board voted to give the $650K from the town’s CARES fund to the schools.
     Gilbert told the Board, “I appreciate the way our Boards work together. It is impressive and I appreciate it.”
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