Wayland seems to have weathered Covid crisis

Though Wayland, like many other public school districts, has gone through some hard times in the last two fiscal years, it appears it has weathered the worst of the storm.

Thus spake Assistant Supt. for Finances and Operations Patricia Velie Monday night, who told the school board at a public hearing that the fund balance decrease now stands at 17.5 percent, down from about 19%. There still is about $6.5 million in that rainy day fund in a budget of about $36.8 million.

Velie acknowledged the challenges that have surfaced over the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, but insisted the local school district came through the crisis reasonably well.

The pandemic caused a drop in student enrollment, from 2,913 a couple of years ago to an estimated 2,767 in the next academic year. The school’s biggest source of revenue is state aid, which depends entirely on student population on a per-pupil basis.

If the state budget allowance of $9,135 holds, it will deliver more than $26 million, starting in October. The remaining funds will be obtained through Gun Lake Casino support, EESR and other grants.

Of course, the greatest expense continues to be salaries and benefits for faculty and staff because, “We are a personnel-driven business,” Velie said.

Wayland has 177 faculty members and 383 employees overall and between 80 and 82 percent of its expenditures are tied to employees.

Velie also said the food service program remains viable, but because the federal free meals program is being terminated at the end of the pandemic, a raise in lunch prices, from $3 to $3.10, will be necessary for the next year.

She estimated that just over 36 percent of local students qualify for free and reduced price meals.

Velie also reported that student fund-raising totaled $207,621 last year toward a fund the school district only holds in place and doesn’t use itself.

The debt service of 8.4 mills per year remains, and will sunset in 2024 though it will have extra time for “smoothing out.”

Velie has maintained consistently that the 8.4-mill levy will not change, but will be extended, if voters approve the $48.5 million bond issue on the Aug. 2 ballot.

COVER PHOTO: Wayland Board of Education President Dan Casini reads a proclamation honoring the almost eight years of service of resigned Board Treasurer Toni Ordway while new Supt. Tim Reeves looks on.

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