Chesterton Tribune

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Duneland School Superintendent Dirk Baer is in the beginning stages of carrying out a pledge to form an advisory committee to give input on how to best budget the estimated $5.6 million that will be generated by new voter-approved school tax levy.

Baer said the formation of the committee was discussed earlier this year when the tax referendum was in its early stages. The intent, he said, is to give added oversight from a non-school “third party” to the annual summertime school budget process. “It’s to try to get more transparency,” he said.

Baer said he is still working on the details of how exactly the committee will function, but that he anticipates the committee will be made up of three to five people who are not affiliated with the school system.

He said he would like committee members who have business acumen, and as such anticipates representation from the Chesterton Duneland Chamber of Commerce. He also said he would like to have committee members who understand the school budgeting process.

Baer said he does not anticipate that the committee will hold its own set of public meetings as the school board does, but instead will work directly with the administration to review the budget details and give input.

He noted that the final budget decisions will be up to the school board as always, and that the school board budget meetings are already open to the public.

Duneland School voters narrowly passed the school tax levy in the primary elections last week, clearing the way for an additional tax rate of up to 22 cents for school operating funds. The rate is tentatively projected to raise $5.6 million next year.

Baer noted that the 22-cent rate is the maximum only, and that depending on the final net assessed value, a lower tax rate might be justified. On the other hand, he said the funding generated might not be enough to prevent additional school funding cuts, especially if state funding is further reduced.

Baer said he expects the committee will be formed over the summer and review the budget information with him and other administrators, likely in July or August before the school board holds its annual public hearing and adopts the budget.

Baer said individuals who are interested in serving on the committee may contact his office.


Posted 5/15/2012