HUD Introduces Free Benchmarking and Green and Resilient Retrofit Program (GRRP) Updates

HUD Introduces Free Benchmarking and Green and Resilient Retrofit Program (GRRP) Updates

In a matter of weeks, HUD introduced free water and energy benchmarking services for multifamily property owners and updates to the Green and Resilient Retrofit Program (GRRP). Here are the highlights…

Free Benchmarking

How much water and energy is a multifamily property using? How does that compare to similar properties? Are there ways to save water and energy while promoting a healthier environment? What funds are available to help upgrade water and energy systems? HUD-assisted multifamily property owners may get answers via HUD’s Free Energy and Water Benchmarking Service.

Owners of properties participating in in HUD’s multifamily assisted housing programs, including Section 8 project-based rental assistance, Section 202 housing for low-income elderly, Section 811 housing for low-income persons with disabilities, and Section 236 preservation programs are eligible to take advantage of HUD’s free energy and water benchmarking service.

Program participants receive information about a property’s energy and water consumption, how they compare to similar properties’, and savings recommendations; Energy Star Portfolio Manager benchmarking analytics; and training, technical assistance, and other resources.

Data can help property owners identify ways to improve energy efficiency, foster a healthier living environment, and promote green investments. It can also help identify upgrades that may be eligible for GRRP grants and loans, as well as other funding sources. Finally, it may help satisfy benchmarking requirements for multifamily properties implemented by local jurisdictions and as part of the general GRRP benchmarking requirement.

HUD is estimating that up to 9,000 properties may participate. Leidos, HUD’s contractor, will be reaching out to eligible property owners over the coming months. Property owners and management agents can also email their interest in participating and property ID(s) to MFBenchmarking@hud.gov. Then, watch for official communications from Leidos.

GRRP Updates

On January 8, HUD issued Housing Notice 2024-01 increasing the flexibility and administrative ease of the GRRP. It applies to current GRRP award recipients and those selected during upcoming application periods. Changes allow for more funds to be available during construction; update Surplus Cash Loan terms; provide guidance on the purchase of renewable energy credits; specify when Davis-Bacon wage rates lock in and provide guidance for owners entering into project labor agreements with unions; and include administrative updates, and more.

2024 GRRP application deadlines are January 31 and April 30 for Leading Edge; February 28 and May 30 for Comprehensive; and March 28 and July 31 for Elements. For more information and details, including new FAQs, visit GRRP on HUD.gov. For background on the GRRP, click here.

As you focus on these HUD programs and updates, remember that you can count on RBT CPAs when it comes to accounting, tax, audit, or business advisory needs. Please feel free to give us a call.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say 100% of its work is prepared in America. Our company does not offshore work, so you always know who is handling your confidential financial data.

Update on GASB Proposal: Disclosure and Classification of Certain Capital Assets

Update on GASB Proposal: Disclosure and Classification of Certain Capital Assets

Last September, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issued a proposal to require certain types of capital assets be disclosed separately for purposes of note disclosures and certain assets to be classified as “held for sale.” Stakeholders have been reviewing the proposal and comments were accepted until January 5.

According to the Exposure Draft, Statement requirements would be effective fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2025 (although earlier application would be encouraged), with certain assets to be reported retroactively for periods covered by the basic financial statement.

State and local governments must provide details about capital assets in financial statement notes. Prompted by Statement 87 (Leases) and 96 (Subscription-Based Information Technology Arrangements) creating “right-to-use” assets, GASB began considering existing classifications’ effectiveness. The Board proposed certain types of assets be disclosed separately in capital assets note disclosures, including:

  1. New! Capital assets held for sale, by major class of asset
  2. Lease assets reported under Statement 87, by major class of underlying asset
  3. Subscription assets reported under Statement 96, and
  4. Intangible assets other than leases and subscriptions, by major class of assets.

The proposed new classification of “Capital assets held for sale” would be evaluated each reporting period and apply for assets the government has decided to sell if the sale would likely be finalized within one year of the financial statement date. Factors associated with the likelihood of sale include, but are not limited to:

  1. Asset is available for immediate sale in current condition
  2. An active program to locate a buyer has been initiated
  3. Market conditions for that type of asset
  4. Regulatory approvals to sell the asset

If requirements cannot be applied retroactively to all periods in a basic financial statement, a reason must be given. Changes adopted related to “capital assets held for sale” should be reported as a reclassification resulting from an accounting principle change.

Overall, proposed updates would make reporting across government entities more consistent and comparable, and the additional information would better inform decision-making and assess accountability.

We will keep you updated as more information becomes available. In the meantime, please know RBT CPAs are here to support your municipality’s accounting, tax, audit, and advisory needs. Give us a call to learn more.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say 100% of its work is prepared in America. Our company does not offshore work, so you always know who is handling your confidential financial data.

Are Your District’s Students (and Families) Eligible for a Monthly Discount on Internet Services?

Are Your District’s Students (and Families) Eligible for a Monthly Discount on Internet Services?

We want to make sure you’re aware of a benefit that may be available to families of students in your district: a monthly discount on Internet services (plus other perks) via the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.

Put simply, anyone whose child is eligible for a free and/or reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program, including at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools, may also be eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program. (There are other ways to become eligible, but this is the one pertinent to this discussion.)

As noted on the FCC website, “The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC benefit program that helps ensure households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.

The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.”

Especially with the holidays approaching, eligible families may welcome the opportunity to save at least $30/month or $360/year on Internet, as well as $100 on a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. In addition to bringing some cheer to the holidays, letting eligible families know about the Affordable Connectivity Program may help you begin to build some goodwill prior to the start of budget discussions.

The FCC even makes it easy for you to communicate the program, with a variety of materials including a toolkit containing downloadable flyers, social media messages, infographics, and more. After communicating the program, your part is done.

Any eligible individual interested in the benefit can apply online, via mail or via a participating internet company (click here for instructions). There’s even a tool to help applicants learn about participating companies in their area – click here.  Many Internet Service Provider websites include a tool to help determine eligibility for the Affordable Connectivity Program and to apply.

We’re always looking for ways to enhance the value we deliver to our clients (and prospects) and hope this information will prove valuable to you and your district. As with any new program, it’s always a good idea to run it by your legal council before proceeding.

In the meantime, if you need any help with accounting, tax, audit, or advisory services, please know RBT CPAs is always here for you. To learn more, give us a call today.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say 100% of its work is prepared in America. Our company does not offshore work, so you always know who is handling your confidential financial data.

1099 Forms: What Housing Authorities Need to Know and Do

1099 Forms: What Housing Authorities Need to Know and Do

Did you manage a rental property in 2023? Did you pay people who were not your employees to perform services related to the property?

If you answered “yes,” it may be time to get ready for 1099 Forms. Here’s the scoop…

1099 Forms serve as records of income equal to $600 and over that hasn’t been taxed by the IRS. Annually, a person or organization that pays non-employee income of $600 and over must issue the appropriate 1099 Form to the payment recipient, as well as the IRS. For housing authorities, 1099 filings generally include payments made to property owners, attorneys, vendors, and contractors. Failing to send a Form 1099 when required can result in penalties for the housing authority and potential loss of deductions for the property owner. In turn, Form 1099 recipients must include the forms with their annual tax filings and reflect income when required; otherwise, they can be subject to an audit and/or financial penalties.

There are numerous 1099 forms, but two are particularly important for housing authorities: 1099-MISC and  1099-NEC.

1099-MISC is used to report income that isn’t reported on a W-2. This includes:

  • Rental income, including rent from tenants on a government housing assistance plan like Section 8 or a similar program (for HUD housing, the local housing authority will file the 1099-MISC unless there’s a property manager – in that case, the property manager files the 1099-MISC)
  • Prizes and awards
  • Cash paid from a notional principal contract to an individual, partnership, or estate
  • Fishing boat proceeds
  • Medical and health care payments
  • Crop insurance proceeds
  • Payments to an attorney
  • Section 409A deferrals
  • Non-qualified deferred compensation
  • Other income payments

Of the items above, rent and payments to an attorney likely apply for a housing authority. An authority will use 1099-MISC to report rent totaling $600 or more paid to an owner of a rental property and a separate 1099-MISC to report attorney fees totaling $600 or more.

What about payments to independent contractors and such?

The 1099-NEC form is used to report non-employee compensation totaling $600 or more for a service provided as part of business (including to nonprofit organizations and government agencies). So, a housing authority will file a 1099-NEC for each independent contractor or organization paid $600 or more during the year for services provided on a rental property owner’s behalf. Examples include services provided by landscapers, electricians, plumbers, locksmiths, painters, maintenance workers, cleaning services, pest removal businesses, HVAC providers, bookkeeping/accounting providers, renovators, inspectors, and more. However, 1099-NEC forms are not required for payments made to corporations (unless the organization is also a limited liability company).

Up until November 21, there was a third reporting requirement using Form 1099-K to report payments received from cards, online payment apps and third-party payment networks. However, in a press release issued November 21, the IRS delayed this requirement for another year. The press release noted:

“Following feedback from taxpayers, tax professionals and payment processors and to reduce taxpayer confusion, the Internal Revenue Service today released Notice 2023-74PDF announcing a delay of the new $600 Form 1099-K reporting threshold for third party settlement organizations for calendar year 2023.

As the IRS continues to work to implement the new law, the agency will treat 2023 as an additional transition year. This will reduce the potential confusion caused by the distribution of an estimated 44 million Forms 1099-K sent to many taxpayers who wouldn’t expect one and may not have a tax obligation. As a result, reporting will not be required unless the taxpayer receives over $20,000 and has more than 200 transactions in 2023.”

Filing Deadlines

1099-NEC Forms must be filed by January 31 with both the IRS and recipient. 1099-MISC with no data in Boxes 8 or 10 is due to recipients January 31 and the IRS by February 28 (paper) or March 31 (electronic).

New Electronic Filing Requirement Starts in 2024

In February of this year, the IRS expanded electronic filing requirements. If an employer files 10 or more returns of any type – including W-2s and 1099s – on or after January 1, 2024, they must be submitted electronically. Paper submissions are not allowed. The IRS Information Returns Intake System (IRIS) portal or Filing Information Returns Electronically (FIRE) can be used for electronic 1099 filings (NOTE: You must apply in advance to obtain a Transmitter Control Code (TCC) to use IRIS or FIRE). As an alternative, you can ask your accountant to file for you. Failing to comply can result in a $310 penalty for each information return filed on paper.

For more information, please refer to the IRS website or give your RBT CPA client manager a call. We’re here to answer your questions and help with all of your accounting, tax, audit, and advisory needs. Give us a call today.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say 100% of its work is prepared in America. Our company does not offshore work, so you always know who is handling your confidential financial data.

Make Neighborhood Revitalization Plans Reality: Apply for a Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant by December 11

Make Neighborhood Revitalization Plans Reality: Apply for a Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant by December 11

On September 6, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) posted a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant. About $256 million will be available for transformative awards of up to $50 million each. The deadline to apply is December 11, 2023.

Who Can Apply?

Given the program’s transformative reach, HUD encourages eligible communities of all sizes to pursue a Choice Neighborhoods grant. The Lead Applicant must be a Public Housing Agency (PHA), a local government, or a tribal entity. If there is a Co-Applicant, it must be a PHA, a local government, a tribal entity, or the owner of the target HUD-assisted housing.  For a tribal entity, the local government of jurisdiction or tribe must be the Lead Applicant or Co-Applicant.

What Is Needed to Apply?

Applications must present a plan to revitalize a severely distressed public and/or HUD-assisted multifamily housing project located in a distressed neighborhood and transform it into a viable, mixed-income community.

When Are Applications Due?

December 11, 2023

Where Can I Learn More?

Visit the Choice Neighborhoods website at Hud.gov/cn and HUD Exchange for information and resources.   

Why Apply?

Thanks to the Choice Neighborhoods grants, 13,000 new mixed-income units have been built across 52 cities, with plans for 37,000 more. Going beyond housing, the program has led to new businesses, parks, and grocery stores, as well as revitalized schools, childcare programs and healthcare resources with better outcomes. One study showed HUD’s investment generated $400 million in public and private resources; increased median household incomes and homeownership rates; and resulted in lower crime rates.

How Can the Grant Be Used?

Grants, along with public and private funds, support locally driven strategies to revitalize neighborhoods by transforming housing while investing in the surrounding area and resident services. The Choice Neighborhoods program focuses on:

  1. Housing: Replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood;
  2. People: Improve outcomes of households living in the target housing related to employment and income, health, and children’s education; and
  3. Neighborhood: Create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods to offer the kinds of amenities and assets, including safety, good schools, and commercial activity, that are important to families’ choices about their community.

While you explore the potential of transforming high-poverty neighborhoods into places of opportunity and economic growth, you can count on RBT CPAs to take care of all of your tax, accounting, audit, and advisory needs. Give us a call to learn more.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say all our work is prepared in the U.S.A. – we never offshore. As a result, you get peace of mind that your operation’s financial and confidential information is handled by full-time, local staff who have met our high standards for quality, ethics, and professionalism.

The DOE & DOL Spent the Summer Boosting Teacher Talent Pipeline Efforts

The DOE & DOL Spent the Summer Boosting Teacher Talent Pipeline Efforts

While students and families across the U.S. enjoyed time off during the summer months, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Labor (DOL) were busy! In late July, they introduced new guidelines for teacher apprenticeships; new investments and funding opportunities; and more.

Like most industries, school districts have been facing a multi-year labor crunch marked by challenges hiring teachers, aides, medical personnel, bus drivers, and other staff. The situation worsened during the COVID crisis, which saw public education lose 9% of or 730,000 jobs. At the same time, future pipelines of teacher talent looked to be coming up short. Combined, these make the July announcements even more valuable. Here’s what they included…

The National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards (NGS), developed by The Pathways Alliance, are designed to “guide states, school districts, and other apprenticeship sponsors to align their programs to quality standards for K-12 teachers. It also provides a framework that partners can use to develop state specific program standards and provide for expedited development and approval of new apprenticeship programs.” This is part of a long-term plan to strengthen and diversify the teacher workforce, while addressing the teacher shortage, by expanding the number of states with quality apprenticeship programs that reduce costs associated with getting licensed.

A new policy brief from the DOE, entitled Raise the Bar: Eliminating Educator Shortages through Increased Compensation, High-Quality and Affordable Preparation and Teacher Leadership, calls “on state and local leaders to utilize five key policy levers to Raise the Bar and eliminate educator shortages.” Levers include increasing compensation, expanding educator preparation programs, promoting career advancement and leadership opportunities, providing ongoing learning opportunities, and increasing diversity of educators.

Over $27 million in new awards were announced by the DOE. Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants totaling $14.5 million focus on strengthening preparation programs and supports for new teachers. Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) funds of $12.7 million will “support the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators” while also enabling the creation, expansion, and evaluation of practices that can be replicated and scaled.

In addition, the DOL awarded over $65 million in grants to 45 states and territories for apprenticeship programs in education and other sectors (indications are that 35 states are using the funds to address education sector needs). At the same time, the DOL introduced RTI International as a new Registered Apprenticeship intermediary focused on launching, promoting, and expanding programs for k-12 education.

While you and your team become familiar with these new tools, resources, and opportunities, you can depend on RBT CPAs to address all of your accounting, tax, audit, and advisory needs. To learn more, give us a call today.

 

RBT CPAs do not outsource work to any other country. All of our work is prepared in the U.S.A. 

Five Ideas to Strengthen Recruiting and Retention Results

Five Ideas to Strengthen Recruiting and Retention Results

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing I don’t need to tell you about the many challenges municipalities face when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. So, let’s get right to it – what can you do to enhance efforts to compete for and win talent today?

While there are no silver bullets, following are ideas you may want to consider incorporating into your recruiting and retention strategies (if you haven’t already done so).

  1. Conduct focus groups and exit interviews. There’s no better way to understand what attracts and keeps people working for your organization than to ask. Focus groups show existing employees their input matters and can make a difference, while allowing you to identify key value propositions to market to prospective employees. At the same time, exit interviews can garner important insights into what you can do or change to create a work environment that people want to be part of.
  2. Build an employment brand. While you may be hard-pressed to justify hiring a branding agency, there’s a good likelihood you already have content to build on – namely, your municipality’s mission, values, and strategic plans. These were created to reveal why your municipality exists, what it strives to achieve and how, and where it’s going next. When you bring these to life with compelling examples and stories you can easily share on social media and your website, you not only educate community members about what you’re accomplishing, but also establish a sense of pride among existing employees while giving prospective employees insights into what it’s like to be part of the municipality’s team.
  3. Update and streamline recruiting processes. Your recruiting process gives prospects insights into what they can expect on the job. Nothing screams “bureaucracy” and “outdated” like convoluted job descriptions; paper intensive processes; and a lengthy timeline for hiring decisions. Maybe now is a good time to process map all the steps in your recruiting and hiring processes to identify what’s no longer needed and what can be updated with technology. Even better, invite existing employees to partake in a special learning/professional development opportunity by creating a taskforce where they can have input on shaping the future of recruiting and retention.
  4. Market your total rewards. Maybe your municipality doesn’t offer the highest pay, but perhaps it does provide health care and wellness benefits, along with valuable opportunities to build retirement income; paid time off; longevity pay; flexibility to work from home or work part-time hours; job security; being part of a positive team environment; getting hands-on experience; making a difference; and more. Let prospects know about your entire rewards package and take time to remind existing employees how to make the most of their rewards.
  5. Establish and nurture win-win relationships to support recruiting. Many high schools and/or clubs have community service requirements. Are there roles in your municipality that can help meet those requirements while educating students about careers in public service? What about reaching out to your local high school/college alumni looking for jobs upon graduation? College career development offices often look to help pair up graduating students with local employers – make sure they know you’re interested in attending upcoming job fairs. Also, more unions are helping to promote job opportunities that can benefit their members or attract new ones. Finally, employees looking for career development opportunities may step up to serve as mentors to new workforce entrants looking to get ahead.

As you consider how to strengthen your municipality’s recruiting and retention strategies, we want to make sure you know about the two ways RBT CPAs can support your efforts. RBT CPAs can free you up to focus on strategic imperatives like recruiting by supporting your municipality’s accounting, tax, audit, and advisory needs. In addition, our Vision Human Resources Services affiliate provides recruiting and other HR-related services. To learn more, give us a call today.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say all of its work is prepared in the U.S.A.  We never outsource outside the U.S.A.  To learn more about the accounting, tax, audit, and business advisory services our local team members can provide for your business, give us a call.

New Inspection Standards Are In Effect for Public and Multifamily Housing

New Inspection Standards Are In Effect for Public and Multifamily Housing

Starting July 1, public housing inspections can be conducted using the Final Rule of National Standards for Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE)

Designed to strengthen HUD’s physical condition standards, the new standards detail inspectable items; classify whether they are considered life-threatening, severe, moderate or low-risk; define the correction timeframe which ranges from 24 hours to 30 or 60 days; and more. You and your team may want to develop a plan for reviewing the standards and ensuring they are met.

Major changes include:

  • Life threatening and severe deficiencies must be addressed within 24 hours.
  • The Smoke Alarm Standard is now consistent with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 72.
  • Creation of a Fire Door Standard with details about function, operability, and structural integrity requirements.
  • Installation of carbon monoxide alarms in compliance with 2018 International Fire Code.
  • Minimum temperature requirements during the colder months and a permanent heating source requirement.
  • Criteria for when guardrails and handrails are required.
  • Establish infestation deficiencies based on observations with clarification on citable pests.
  • Develop deficiencies based on observed mold conditions or elevated moisture levels as measured by a moisture meter.
  • Add a deficiency for an enhanced visual assessment of deteriorated paint in units where children under age 6 reside to document potential lead-based paint hazards.
  • Specify Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection as a requirement.
  • Include affirmative habitability requirements for bathrooms, kitchens, and other rooms used by residents.

HUD is committed to review the standards every three years, at a minimum. In addition to the Final Standards Notice, HUD will be publishing Scoring and Administrative Notices this summer.

For more information on NSPIRE, visit the NSPIRE homepage and view the video of the NSPIRE Standards.

In an unrelated note, we want to make sure you aware of these funding opportunities announced in June:

While getting acquainted with the new inspection standards, you can depend on RBT CPAs to handle all of your account, tax, audit and advisory needs. We believe we succeed when we help you succeed. To learn more, give us a call.

 

RBT is proud to say all of our work is prepared in the U.S.A. – we never offshore. As a result, you get peace of mind that your operation’s financial and confidential information is handled by full-time, local staff who have met RBT CPA’s high standards for quality, ethics, and professionalism.

New Funding Opportunities Announced: July 28 Deadline

New Funding Opportunities Announced: July 28 Deadline

Now that the debt ceiling crisis has been averted, there’s time to focus on other things – like upcoming funding opportunities through the Mid-Hudson Momentum Fund and regional economic development councils (REDCs). With July 28 at 4 p.m. as the deadline for both, here’s what to know and do…

New! Mid-Hudson Momentum Fund (MHMF)

Introduced this year, the Mid-Hudson REDC – representing Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster, Sullivan, and Westchester – will award up to $150 million for infrastructure, transit-oriented development (TOD), and mixed-use housing project investments aligning with the council’s regional strategy.

Eligible applicants include municipalities, non-profit organizations, for-profit companies, and public benefit corporations (i.e., IDAs and LDCs). Eligible projects include facility rehabilitation, construction, and expansion; design/engineering for construction; infrastructure and site development; and equipment and machinery.

Ideal projects are those that can begin quickly, have community support, leverage non-state investment, are financially sound, and/or will result in increased affordable housing. For complete details, see the program guidelines and application.

REDC Funding Opportunities

The Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) opened on May 15, providing access to apply for funding – in the form of capital or tax credits – from up to 30 different programs (depending on eligibility). This year, there are two new micro-grant programs – each will reward up to $5 million in grants:

  1. Craft Beverage Microgrant Program providing $25,000 to $50,000 grants for equipment purchases and facility upgrades.
  2. Not-for-Profit Capital Grant Program providing matching grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 for facility improvements and upgrades.

REDCs are encouraged to support projects that advance state priorities. This includes childcare, distressed communities, green buildings, sustainable development, and innovative public-private partnerships. Also, REDCs have been instructed to update their economic and development plans to confirm growth priorities, define resource deployment, and map out how goals will be achieved. As part of this process, each REDC will pick one challenge and develop proposed creative and innovative solutions; up to three REDCs will receive up to $10 million in funding to execute their proposals.

For more information, including a guidebook, summary of grants, an application manual, informational webinars, and more, click here.

While you’re identifying and applying for potential funding, remember, RBT CPAs is here to lighten your load by providing accounting, tax, audit, and advisory services. We’ve been proudly serving the Hudson Valley (and beyond) for over 55 years and complete all work locally – we never outsource or offshore. To learn more about how RBT CPAs can support and contribute to your success, give us a call.

Testing a Four-Day School Week

Testing a Four-Day School Week

School districts in certain parts of the country have adopted a four-day school week, primarily in response to staffing shortages and recruiting challenges. In some instances, local districts that were losing teachers and other staff to those offering the four-day school week had no choice but to do the same. With this trend picking up steam, especially following COVID, is it only a matter of time before it becomes a nationwide norm?

As an accountant, a partner in an accounting firm, and a working mother of two children in elementary school, I definitely have my own perspective on the topic. Before jumping to conclusions, I wanted to do some research to see if there’s something I’m missing and to better educate myself on the issues.

As reported by the Rand Organization, 257 U.S. schools operated on a four-day week in 1999. Within just 20 years that increased by over 622%, growing to more than 1,600 schools across 24 states by 2019. More than 70% were in rural locations that deal with higher costs for transportation and operations while struggling to attract and keep talent due to lower pay. Still, one big question – perhaps the most important one – remains: How does it affect students?

A study of student achievements in grades 3 to 8 shows students with a shorter school week fall a little bit behind their five-day-a-week peers each year. After about eight years, the total learning loss is similar to the loss experienced during COVID.  What’s more, results showed the five-day-a-week peers progressing faster.  (Source: Doss, C; Kilburn, R; Phillips, A. The Four-Day School Week: Are the Pros Worth the Cons? April 2023. Rand.org.)

That’s not to say there aren’t positives to the approach. Rural schools, in particular, find it to be a potent solution to attract and retain talent, improve job satisfaction, reduce burnout, and offset lower pay. It also reduces operational costs related to buildings, buses, school meals, substitute teachers, and more (although the savings is not much – just an estimated 1% to 2%). Teachers have more time to plan for lessons and complete grading. Overall, school morale appears to improve, but what about the students?

When I read the data available on the four-day-school-week, I was struck by how most of the benefits discussed don’t have anything to do with the students. I struggle with that. After all, the whole reason a school exists is for the children to learn, grow, and prepare to live successful lives.

As a business leader, it just feels counter-intuitive to promote an approach that doesn’t benefit clients. In truth, any business that doesn’t put its clients first won’t be in business for long. As noted by Rand, “A better approach to improving outcomes for both students and teachers would be to address the root cause of the challenges schools and districts face, including insufficient and inequitable funding and teacher and student stress.”

Numerous other studies are starting to come out on the issue. One showed fifth-grade students losing about five to six weeks of gains in math for each year of four-day schooling. Another study found it harms certain students more than others, with elementary school students showing a slower pace of growth on standardized math tests than their peers going to school five days a week; reading results were worse. In a minority of cases, when students make up time lost by attending school for more hours Monday through Thursday, learning doesn’t seem to be impacted.

One other point worth noting is that while the four-day-a-week saves schools money, it actually drives up costs for students’ families. A report on CNN indicated the shorter school week can result in an annual increase of $5,000 to $9,000 in childcare costs, which is between 5% and 9% of the median family income.  It feels like cost-shifting to me.

Personally, given global competition, the rapid growth of technology, and the ever-quickening pace of change, I would prefer to see children having more learning opportunities and time – not less. They already lost learning and socializing opportunities to COVID. Solutions to recruitment, retention, and costs absolutely need to be addressed, but not at our children’s expense. There just has to be a better way.

If your school district is facing financial challenges and looking for opportunities to save or manage funds better, perhaps RBT CPAs can help. Our firm has been serving clients in the Hudson Valley and beyond for over 50 years – including numerous school districts. In addition to accounting, tax, and audit services, our team is also available to provide advisory services to help you make the most of the money available. Perhaps there’s something we can do for you. Interested? Give us a call today.