Gulf District Schools have received $2 million in emergency insurance funding and adjusters have approved another $6 million in insurance recovery funding.
And the counting is really just getting underway.
On myriad pathways, the district is attempting to assume a full grasp over its financial portrait down to the classroom.
Surveys were sent to each classroom teacher to be completed by the end of the month documenting any and all damage to each classroom.
The district has also partnered with Integrity Group, one of three companies recommended by the Panhandle Area Education Consortium (PAEC) to the counties its serves, to assist with emergency assistance.
Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton noted Tuesday that district staff had been effectively working two jobs; their regular day job and that of administrating emergency response.
“It is a good thing we have help coming in,” Norton said. “Unless we are perfect on every claim these are things that will ultimately be passed onto the taxpayers.
“We are doing everything we can. We have to do this right.”
Assistant Superintendent for Business Bill Carr said that during initial meetings it was clear that the folks at the Integrity Group “spoke the same language” as FEMA.
“They are real, real good,” Carr said.
The classroom surveys were suggested by the Integrity Group.
The company will also be essential with paperwork and grant management as well as interface with state and federal agencies.
“It was critical to get this group to piggy-back off,” said School Board attorney Charles Costin. “We’d be lost.”
The district began to address its extensive infrastructure needs via insurance settlement and associated paperwork Tuesday by approving a list of projects to fix softball and baseball facilities at the two high schools.
Those were deemed pressing situations given approaching seasons.
And outside of those projects that are not on the five-year plan for capital improvements, there is the running track at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.
Norton said it was damaged beyond repair by the staging of law enforcement, the traffic flow of trucks and hundreds living on the track, after Hurricane Michael.
“It all worked out the way our community needed it to work out, but (the track) has disintegrated,” Norton said.
Enrollment continues at about 95 percent of pre-Michael levels, well above neighboring Bay County.
However, district officials attribute roughly 10 percent of that to displaced children from Bay County and how their circumstances might change in the coming months is a significant unknown.
“We don’t know how that will work out, the 5 percent we are off and that 10 percent,” Norton said.
The 5 percent represents about $200,000-$250,000 in revenue.
“Our biggest concern is not the loss of (full-time equivalent students), it’s the loss of (property values),” Norton said.
During a recent presentation to the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, Property Appraiser Mitch Burke said the very preliminary numbers indicated a loss in property values that could top 30 percent.
That could impact the legislative numbers but also the value of the voter-approved additional one mill operating levy.
Norton said the hope among impacted districts was a move by the Florida Legislature to fund local schools at a pre-Michael levels for the next two or three years.
“We have to trust the Legislature will do the right thing,” Norton said.