Chesterton Tribune

Duneland School budget pared down from last year

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By VICKI URBANIK

The proposed 2011 budget for the Duneland School Corporation is a pared-down version of last year’s, reflecting the reality of state funding cuts and uncertainties over the budget process.

The Duneland School Board on Tuesday continued its review of the proposed budgets in advance of the public hearing that will be held on August 30 for the Capital Projects Fund and the bus replacement fund.

The largest school fund, the general fund, is considered a work in process, said Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer. Last year, the school board approved a general fund budget of more than $41 million, but the fund ended up much lower, at $34 million. Beginning last year, the general fund is now funded through state revenues, not local property taxes, and Duneland, like other public schools in Indiana, lost millions in their general funds last year and this year due to state funding cuts.

Baer said Duneland hasn’t heard from the state that more school funding cuts are in store. As a result, the proposaed general fund for next year is flatlined at $34 million.

The general fund is based on a student enrollment of 100 fewer students. Baer said Duneland anticipates new students coming into the system but at the same time knows that it will lose current students to the new Discovery Charter School. When the projected enrollment counts are factored in, Duneland is showing a loss of $400,000 in funding next year, he said.

Baer said Duneland will pay particular attention to the upcoming registration, noting that for every student not lost in the enrollment count, the budget situation will improve.

Duneland School Board President Michael Trout said Duneland is following the proper budget course by keeping the budget flatlined and proceeding as if the state funding will come through as expected, since school officials haven’t heard otherwise.

In addition to reviewing the general fund, the school board continued its review of other school funds and authorized the advertisement of the Capital Projects Fund and the bus replacement plan, a necessary step before the public hearing.

The CPF will be advertised at $10.6 million, though it’s already known that the fund will end up less. Included in the CPF is $1.6 million that will be cut as part of a tax-neutral school pension bond.

The CPF also reflects a change in budget policy in Indiana. Two of the items -- $649,801 for utilities and $436,723 for property and casualty insurance -- used to be funded through the school general fund. But now the state is allowing schools to pay these costs through their property-tax funded CPFs instead. As Baer noted, while the shift helps free up the general fund, it also eats into costs that used to be reserved for bricks and mortar expenses.

Other items in the proposed CPF include $323,000 for land acquisition development, which includes projects such as paving, sidewalks and new fences at school buildings; $2.1 million for building improvements, which includes a new shop for maintenance storage items; $1.3 million for equipment maintenance; and $75,000 for sports facilities.

Duneland’s bus replacement plan totals $649,800 and includes the replacement of eight school buses. As directed by the state, the bus replacement plan now covers the next 12 years; Duneland Transportation Director Jim Bonfield said a 12-year plan might be suitable for school districts in the southern part of the state, but not in northern Indiana, where the harsh winters often take a toll on the buses and necessitate replacement prior to 12 years.

Despite some of the aging buses and those affected by road salt, Bonfield said Duneland has top quality buses and that the kids are safe. “Our fleet is in the best shape it’s been in,” he said.

Baer noted that the CPF will be advertised at 6.5 percent less than last year’s advertised amount and that the bus replacement plan is 1.75 percent less than last year’s.

Personnel

In other matters, the school board approved three hirings.

Marie Gandy will teach math at Chesterton High School. She formerly worked at Duneland as an aide and most recently taught for three years at Wheeler Middle School. She has a background in engineering and is licensed to teach math, chemistry and physics. She receive her bachelor’s from St. Joseph’s College and her master’s from Purdue University.

Gandy, who was present at Tuesday’s board meeting, said she’s glad to be back at Duneland in a professional capacity. She also noted that in addition to teaching three years in middle school, she has also taught 10 years at the college level.

Also hired was Ashley Jacobs, who will teach fifth grade at Liberty Intermediate. Jacobs is a Ball State graduate who will be hired on a temporary contract. She will move to a regular contract once Duneland hires additional teachers.

Also appointed was Jean Wasielewsk as an attendance secretary at Liberty Intermediate.

The following resignations were accepted: Craig McCarron, CHS math teacher; Kim McCarron, CHS German teacher; Darlene Keator, Yost Elementary instructional aide; and Dianna Alger, Chesterton Middle guidance counselor.

Appointed to coaching positions at CHS were the following: Mark Peterson, assistant football; Tom Berry, boys varsity assistant golf; Jill Hutchinson, freshman volleyball; and Tom Batista, assistant freshman football. Appointed to volunteer positions as assistants in varsity football were Kyle Yelton, Ross Weimers, and Craig Jones.

Construction Update

As the new school year approaches, work is wrapping up on a number of school construction projects.

Duneland Director of Special Services Mark McKibben said the construction of the Liberty Elementary addition was set back a good three weeks this summer due to the Teamsters strike, which affected the delivery of supplies to the work site as well as paving work. Because of the strike, the contractor held off ordering the pipe for the new water line to the school.

McKibben said while most of the interior of the new LES addition is complete, exterior work remains. He said school will likely be in session for a week to 10 days with the school still on well water, before the new water lines are hooked up.

He also noted that as part of bringing sewer and water lines to the school, the onsite sewer treatment plant will need to be de-commissioned and onsite wells capped.

Both Baer and LES Principal Christy Jarka commended McKibben for his efforts overseeing the summer construction projects, including the LES addition.

School Ready

Baer also took note of school registration that will begin next week, with the first day of school set for August 25.

“We’re going to be ready and we’ll have a great year,” he said.

 

 

Posted 8/4/2010