Unit 5 Expects Families' Need For Food To Grow; Staff Plan To Address Delayed Property Tax Revenue | WGLT

Unit 5 Expects Families' Need For Food To Grow; Staff Plan To Address Delayed Property Tax Revenue

Apr 15, 2020

Unit 5 students can’t be in class right now, but that doesn’t mean they can go without breakfast and lunch.

For several weeks now the district has been offering meals to its students who are sheltering in place under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

Between grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches twice a week, weekend food bags and emergency food bags, Unit 5 is giving out a lot of food.

Dayna Brown, the district’s head of communications, said last week alone the district distributed 11,238 meals, 2,000 weekend food bags and 450 emergency food bags. Brown spoke with WGLT following the virtual meeting of the Unit 5 school board Wednesday night.

Unit 5 is also partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal to offer evening meals at two of the district’s three distribution sites. Brown said plans are in place for United Way of McLean County to provide dinners at the third distribution site beginning next week.

Brown said the need for food has only grown as the weeks wear on.

“Some of the families that are expressing some difficulty and are feeling food insecure are families that have never had to reach out to anyone for help before, so this is really a new experience for them,” Brown said. “We’re seeing the unemployment rate rise in Illinois, and I think Bloomington-Normal is probably no different than that.”

The meals are available to any Unit 5 student and their families, not just students on free and reduced lunch.

Covering Delayed Revenues

Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman told Unit 5 board members Wednesday night a delay in property tax payments to the district won’t affect its ability to pay its employees. 

McLean County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil plans to delay the due dates for property tax bills until June 17 for the first installment and Sept. 17 for the second, about two weeks later than usual.

Hickman said the district counts on having that first installment paid the last Friday in May in order to have the cash flow for its June payroll and bills.

Hickman said while there will be some residents paying their property tax bills by the original due date, it’s impossible to say how much revenue those bills will represent. 

“We don’t want to take any risks on our cash flow and have any issues with our payroll or payments in June,” Hickman said. 

Fortunately, he said, the district can use funds from working cash bonds already approved by the board to help fill in any gaps.

Unit 5 had planned to issue those bonds in July; Hickman is recommending moving that date up to early June, he said.

Those bonds may also come in handy should the district see delayed payments from the state as a result of lower-than-expected revenues, Hickman added. 

Hickman said he expects the district will likely issue the full $29 million approved by the board, which will be more than enough to fill the anticipated property tax revenue gap, but were originally approved to help with cash flow over the next two fiscal years.

Hickman said he’s still waiting for more information from the state as to when the district will receive an estimated $1.6 million in CARES Act funds.

So far district leadership has held only high-level discussions as to how those funds may be used, he said. 

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