Chesterton Tribune


Certified Duneland Schools 2013 budget expected to be less than advertised

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The total advertised budget for Duneland Schools next year is $63,525,458 but school officials are not exactly sure what they’ll get when the state comes back with the certified 2013 budget at the start of next year.

Monday, the Duneland School Board invited the public to speak out during a hearing on the new proposed budget. It had been advertised twice as a legal notice in the Chesterton Tribune – on Aug. 31 and again on Sept. 5.

Last year at this time, Duneland’s advertised 2012 budget was $62.3 million, but reductions made by the state in the General Fund and even more in the Capital Projects Fund brought the final amount to $58.8 million.

Duneland Assistant Superinten-dent Dave Pruis said he expects the Capital Projects Fund, which is one of the schools funds vulnerable to the state property tax caps, to be depleted from its advertised amount of $10.4 million. The heftier of its line items are the Building, Acquisition, Construction, and Improvement budget with $2.4 million, for reroofing projects and $2 million for Rent of Buildings, Facilities and Equipment budget for rental of vocational classrooms.

“We know that will be reduced when it comes back,” Pruis said.

The schools’ Transportation Fund certification is also likely to fall short of its advertised budget. It’s advertised for $3.8 million which is more than last year given the jumps in the price of fuel.

The school corporation does expect to have enough in its bus replacement fund, $650,089, to purchase six regular buses next year and a smaller special education bus.

Transportation Director Jim Bonfield said the cost of fuel is not a pressing matter to the schools as much as the problem of corrosion and rust on the buses and specifically their fuel tanks. He said he has had to replace four fuel tanks that had “rusted off.” The problem is common throughout most of Northwest Indiana.

The new referendum fund will offset the likely decline in next year’s General Fund budget, which is advertised as $34.4 million or $2 million less than 2012. If the full 22 cents of the referendum is used (per $100 of assessed value), the schools would gain $4,782,000 based on a total AV of $2.4 billion in the school corporation.

Board member Ralph Ayres said the public should note that the money is not available to the schools until next summer and cannot be used for the current academic year.

The referendum money, Pruis said, will allow Duneland to keep approximately 25 staff positions in the areas of art, music, physical education and media. It will also cover shortfalls in the insurance costs for employees. Pruis said the rates for PERF this year have climbed to 13 percent.

No matter what amount is levied, school officials said they will see to it no expenditures will go above the levy and create more debt.

“What we will not do is spend all of our appropriations,” said Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer.

“There is no reason to take on any more debt,” agreed board vice-president Michael Trout said.

Baer said ideally the school corporation would like to keep eight to ten percent of its funds in cash balance on a regular basis.

School Board candidates speak

at public hearing

During the public hearing, the only questions and comments came from residents running for school board in this year’s general election.

Kristin Kroeger, a candidate for the Jackson Twp. board seat, and John Marshall, one of the four candidates for the at-large seat, inquired as to how the school tax rate will be affected.

Pruis said a few cents will be shaved off the tax rate as the school pays off its debts and pension debt over the next few years. The school is expected to use all 22 cents from the referendum this year but will likely use less of it when the debts are paid off.

Another hopeful for the at-large seat, Dan Vondrasek, Sr. asked if the budgets would be available in the meeting minutes. Baer answered that the budget has been advertised in the Chesterton Tribune and anyone wanting a copy of the full budget can contact the administration office.

Chesterton Town Council member Jim Ton was appointed hearing officer and examiner for the night.

With the completion of thge public hearing, all that’s left is the board’s adoption of the budget scheduled for Monday, Oct. 1.

Sister Cityhood

During the meeting, a presentation was made by a trio of CHS seniors from International Baccalaureate classes on the subject of Chesterton gaining a sister city from overseas.

Just as they shared their findings with the Chesterton Town Council in July, Elizabeth Benson, Hannah Van Drie and Michaela Sosby touted how city sisterhood often boosts the quality of life for the towns involved by improving the cultural, education and economic aspects which include trade exchanges.

Giving an example, the students said the city of San Antonio, Tex., has a robust economic relationship with its sister city of Kumamoto City, Japan, with “huge profits” by trade and investment from its Sony stores.

Sosby said a common added benefit for sister cities is to have unique travel abroad programs and form a cooperative effort in having students to study abroad and gain a broader cultural understanding. The partnered cities or towns can together find ways to fundraise for their students to travel.

In order to fulfill a city sisterhood, a committee would need to be created with members of the IB class, the Chesterton Town Council, the Chesterton Rotary as well as members of the Chesterton Merchants Association. From that point, the next step would be to become a member in the Sister Cities International organization to be paired with a similar city.

Board member Ralph Ayres said it could be possible to include not only Chesterton, but the other two towns in the Duneland community – Burns Harbor and Porter – going from a population of about 10,000 to 25,000.

The town council voted 4-0 to take the matter under advisement. Ton said he was impressed with the presentation and the research put into the proposal.

“They did an excellent job,” he said.

CHS Assistant Principal Jeff Van Drie said the IB class has been in existence for five years and the interaction with the community has been “very beneficial.” The students in the program participate in internship opportunities for their career development.

AIDS Advisory Council

CHS junior Jami Ritchea will join Duneland’s AIDS Advisory Committee for the 2012-2013 school year.

Ritchea will replace one of the students who graduated last year. A senior, Eric Dreischerf, will continue to be a member for this year.

All other members will remain on the committee. They are: school health professional physician Dr. John Forchetti, Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett; parents Darlene Malone and Danielle O’Reilly; Brummitt teacher Pam Moore; CMS teacher Jane Schlichting; CHS assistant principal Jeff Van Drie; CHS health teacher Nancy Furcsk; Porter County Health Department employee Karen Lain and retired health professional Phoebe Jane House.

The committee, which was created decades ago under state statute, reviews health education curriculum that talks about AIDS and other communicable diseases.


Other appointments the school corporation has made include Diane Schmiegel as a new Rt1 Aide for Westchester Intermediate.

Liberty Elementary will see two new faces. Kristen Cunningham who will be an Instructional Aide and Deirdre Comfort has been appointed as a Title 1 Aide.



Posted 9/11/2012