TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County schools officials said Monday that more than $100 million in COVID federal relief funding has been received by the district.
Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said the funds, called ESSER Funds, have been deposited and that this will allow the district to avoid a state takeover.
"We have received $101 million that has been deposited to our account and this is a celebration," Davis said. "This is an opportunity that, after mitigation strategies we put in place, we now get a chance to avoid receivership in Hillsborough County Public Schools.".
The district's financial team said the Esser II funds will help the district meet its financial obligations through June 30, but it's not a permanent fix.
“This funding means that the district will have to continue to input mitigation strategies," Davis said. "Because, as we look at years to come, we still have to be able to face and make certain that we have organizational control internally to continue to be proactive to ensure that we’re not in the same place that we faced last year.”
Officials said the federal funding will go toward COVID-19 related expenses such as technology and summer learning programs.
Davis said other cost-cutting measures will continue.
"All the organizational controls, with looking at how do we staff, do we need it, looking at leveraging our federal funds, looking at reducing overtime, reducing additional expenditures, re-negotiating contracts,” Davis said.
However, he doesn't anticipate further layoffs in schools and said depending on enrollment they could add positions back.
"If there's a need, and we see there's a need of a position, whether it be support staff, administrator, counselor, teaching position, we're going to go ahead and front that position immediately so they can hire during the summer," he said.
District officials said they will know more about job vacancies soon.
School officials have met multiple times in recent weeks to discuss the financial issues.
The mood among school administrators became increasingly optimistic last week as they looked at the numbers. They said cost saving strategies were working and the district's financial outlook was improving.
With a portion of the Esser II funds already received and more on the way, Davis said there has been a collective sigh of relief.
"We all need to just exhale — we all need it," Davis said. "I need it as Superintendent, this team needs it, our board needs it, our community needs it, our teachers and our administrators need it. They really need to just continue to focus on our students, which is what we're here to do."
A special School Board meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The board will be taking a vote on the Financial Recovery Plan that it will be submitting to the State Department of Education in Tallahassee this week.
Davis said the school district is expecting to receive about $400 million in a third wave of federal relief funds, but there's no word yet on when that will arrive.