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Horry County Board of Education members got their first look Monday at a preliminary spending plan for $55 million coming from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“This is a plan and it can be revised … as things change,” said HCS Chief Financial Officer John Gardner.

Horry County Schools received around $14 million in funding last year from the CARES Act, and this $55 million is a second installment.

S.C. Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said districts must submit their spending plans for approval before they will have access to the money, and HCS has until Sept. 30, 2023, to spend the funds once its plan is approved.

Here’s how the DOE says these funds can be used.

For the upcoming fiscal year (2021-2022), the initial plan is to spend $600,000 on instructional materials and personal protective equipment (PPE), followed by expenditures for the HCS Virtual school, including Google Suite purchases for $115,000, and the continuing cost of the Florida Virtual school subscription of $1.6 million.

About $2 million would go to staffing, support, online library platforms and tutoring for the virtual school. More after-school tutoring options are also on the list for both HCS Virtual and the brick-and-mortar schools. 

Another line item is for more school nurses and rehabilitative behavioral health counselors.

Last month, HCS announced they were deciding on a company to install Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) technology in all schools in the district, which would help the district have cleaner air in its buildings.

In order to get that moving, part of the latest funding plan is to spend $7 million on air purification systems as well as $5.2 million for HVAC upgrades for older systems, and $3.5 million for roof replacements.

The spending plan total for the 2021-2022 fiscal year comes to $31.3 million. The plan for the 2022-2023 budget is essentially the same, minus the $7 million cost for the NPBI system, for a total of $23.2 million for that fiscal year.

Brown with the SCDOE cleared up some confusion regarding the money given to the district for the purchase of the recently-installed plexiglass.

“It was funded through the General Assembly in a supplemental CARES Act appropriation that had four allowable uses, which covered plexiglass, PPE, school nurses, and technology but not building/facility renovations and upgrades,” Brown said.

Chief Financial Officer John Gardner also said that the new funding cannot be used for athletics, despite the recently-announced $270,000 deficit in gate ticket losses that district high schools saw during the pandemic.

The district's finance committee will be bringing a plan to the board meeting next month to address the athletics funding issues.

Horry County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said that it is unlikely the latest federal dollars can be used for getting HCS employee salaries up to par with neighboring districts per the recent Comprehensive Salary Study. She noted that employee salaries are a recurring expense and these funds expire in September 2023.

The board's finance committee reviewed the plan on Monday. It will be presented to the full board in early May. 

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