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Hillsborough School leaders set to take out $75M loan to cover payroll

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County School Board leaders are expected to take out a $75M loan to cover payroll and other expenses after expected property tax money may not come in as scheduled. They are set to take this action at their regular Oct. 6 meeting.District leaders said schools count on local property tax money to fund those expenses. But this year, because of the pandemic, the property tax assessor extended the payment deadline for families. So now, the district may not be getting that money when they normally would and may use the loan to cover the expenses in the meantime.It’s expected the district will pay the loan back shortly after the expected property money comes in, school leaders said.However, this comes as the district faces mounting budget issues due in part to declining enrollment and additional COVID-19 expenses. The Hillsborough County School Board could end up having to pay back as much as $56M to the state after students enrolled back in the district at the beginning of the school year were thousands less compared to last year.The district explained funding is based on student enrollment, which drives staffing allocation.Originally, the district was down about 7,000 students this year than at the end of last school year. But according to Steve Cona, a school board member, the district has been making phone calls and doing home visits to track down unaccounted for students. Now, the number of unaccounted for students is around 5,700.In a letter to families, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis shared: “The FDOE has also made clear that districts will have to give back funds following the February 2020 FTE Survey if enrollment and programmatic needs are lower than the fall survey. At this time, Hillsborough is looking at a potential $56 million payback based on that possibility alone.”“Making the financial situation even more difficult is the negative impact that non-reimbursable, COVID-response expenses and other costs have had on our general revenue,” said Davis in the letter. “It was necessary, but protecting our students and staff has come at an expense.”

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