A week after President Barack Obama signed into law a $26 billion emergency jobs bill, of which $10 billion is earmarked for education jobs, administrators at Waldo County’s school districts are waiting to hear how much money they will get and what it can be used for.

Bruce Mailloux, superintendent of Regional School Unit 20, which includes Belfast, Searsport and seven surrounding towns, said he is waiting to hear from officials in Augusta as to how much his district will receive. Regardless of the amount, Mailloux said he would be happiest if the funding came in the form of a lump sum without restrictions that could be used to relieve the tax burden.

But given the law’s emphasis on saving jobs, he doubted that would happen.

In the meantime, Mailloux said reduced state funding has forced the district to make a number of changes, including laying off teachers. Last spring, the school board considered closing schools, but voted instead to ask for additional funding from taxpayers. Voters approved the 2010-11 budget in June.

“This is August 17th. With the positions we’ve had to eliminate, we’ve made adjustments, schedules are all done, people are assigned. We’ve dealt with the changes and we’re moving ahead,” he said. “Quite frankly, I like the idea, but it’s a little late.”

Mailloux expressed reservations about rehiring teachers or hiring new staff based on funding from the federal government that might not be there next year.

“The big issue is that it’s a one-time deal, for one year. Anybody we hire back now, depending how the economy is when we get to budget time, we may have to turn around and lay them off,” he said.

In certain circumstances, Mailloux said, the district could benefit from hiring someone for one year to work in a specialized area. He gave the example of a cluster of students in a certain grade who were falling behind in mathematics. The district could hire a person to work exclusively with that group, he said.

But Mailloux said the district does not have a situation like that right now.

Other recent federal funding — stimulus money earmarked for special education and for Title 1, which aims to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged children — has presented similar challenges, he said.

“We needed the money, but we couldn’t spend it [all], because the programs are very limited in what you can spend. If you get a literacy program and you need literacy books, you can only buy so many books, and we’re not going to spend the money just to say we can spend it,” he said.

With the special education and Title 1 money, Mailloux said the district would try to carry the balance forward for as long as is permitted.

Like Mailloux, Heather Perry, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 3, which includes 11 towns in western Waldo County, said she is awaiting word from the Department of Education.

“With stimulus funds we’ve received in the past, the restrictions put on those funds forced us to spend those monies in particular ways, some of which would add to a cliff if those funds were no longer to come,” she said. “That’s certainly a reality in regards to those federal funds.”

The federal government recently released guidelines that the state will use to apply for funding from the jobs bill.

Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin, speaking Aug. 19, said the guidelines allow for the funding to be used in either of the next two fiscal years, 2010-11 or 2011-12.

“Since they’ve all done their budgets this year and they’ve already made the difficult decisions, some of them [the school districts] may want to go back in and bring some people back or bring back some programming, but I think many of them are going to want to use at least some of the funds next year,” he said.

Connerty-Marin said the governor would be submitting Maine’s application soon. Maine is expected to get $39 million from the jobs bill.

“The U.S. Department of Education has pledged to move very quickly on the applications,” he said. “We could have the funds within two weeks of submitting our application and we’ll be informing districts of how much each district is going to receive pretty quickly.”

Connerty-Marin said he could have word possibly as soon as a week from now.