Chesterton Tribune



Duneland copes with state mandated school funds shift

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The Duneland School Corporation’s finances will be organized in a completely different way, per state law, in 2019.

Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilasz gave a presentation on the 2019 budget for the Duneland School Board’s meeting Monday night where she explained what the new laws mandate and how the Board and the Business Office will go about fielding the switch.

Currently, DSC has six main funds to separate money for specific purposes: the general fund, the capital projects fund, the transportation fund, the bus replacement fund, the debt-service fund, and the referendum fund.

The general fund covers salaries and benefits for most employees, professional development, insurance, utilities, and instructional and maintenance supplies. It is funded by state tuition support--which is doled out as a flat rate per-student--alone. The general fund does not automatically benefit from local property taxes, and general fund expenses can only be paid for with local property taxes collected based on voter-approved referendum, per a 2008 change in state law.

The debt service fund is used for the repayment of debt. The capital projects fund is used for maintenance and repairs to buildings and equipment, some insurance and utilities expenses, energy savings projects, technology hardware and software, furniture, and technology support personnel salaries and benefits. The transportation fund covers fuel, bus repairs, and salaries and benefits for transportation employees. The bus replacement fund is used only for the replacement of buses and special purpose vehicles. The referendum fund is used for teacher salaries and benefits, compensation for nurses, aides, media specialists, other student support personnel, professional development, instructional technology, instructional supplies, and some utilities. All five of these funds are funded by local property taxes.

Kwilasz said new state laws HEA 1009 and HEA 1167 have changed how schools are allowed to split their money between funds. Now, DSC will have to transition to having only two main funds, which will be called the education fund and the operations fund. The education fund is intended for expenses directly related to students and instruction, and the operations fund catches nearly everything else. The majority of the funds from the general, capital projects, transportation, and bus replacement funds will go into one of these two new funds. The referendum fund and the debt-service fund will continue to stand alone. The food service fund will also remain independent.

Under the new system, the education fund will be used for what the new laws define as expenses related to “academic achievement” and “student support” in what the law terms a “dollars to the classroom” approach. The education fund will be funded from only state support, like the former general fund. The operations fund will be used for all the expenses covered under the former capital projects, transportation, and bus replacement funds plus what the laws define as “overhead” and “non-operational” expenses from the former general fund, which include salaries and benefits for the offices of the superintendent and business and human resources offices, salaries and benefits for custodians, and insurance and utilities. The operations fund will be funded from a dedicated portion of the current state support allowance and from local property taxes.

Kwilasz said the Board will need to pass a resolution creating the new funds, then transfer the money from the current funds into the new respective funds on Jan. 1.

Budget preparation will change in the following ways: updated software is required, any plans for capital projects over $10,000 must be posted on the DSC website and advertised in the newspaper for a hearing, and a five-year bus replacement plan must be posted on the DSC website and advertised for a hearing in the newspaper.

Kwilasz said the merger of several funds was an attempt on the part of legislators to allow some districts to be more flexible with their funds, but it also means “careful long-range planning will be more important than ever.”

Kwilasz said the marrying of so many funds into two allows a school system to overspend in a certain area because the fund covering that expense contains money for several purposes; however, problems will arise if the school system doesn’t, or isn’t able to, adjust their budget for the following year to account for the added expense.

Board member Kristin Kroeger suggested that the Board may need to consider budgeting for a longer term. She also asked Kwilasz what internal controls should be established to help manage the new budget configuration. Kwilasz said she is still mulling the details.

Other Business

In other budget business, the Board approved a $7,505 athletic equipment purchase for Chesterton High School. The three purchases were $1,800 for an MDM laser console for the training room, $3,800 for a golf cart with an extended bed, and $1,905 for cheerleading competition mats.

Policy Update

The Board also approved Policy 7441, which will govern the use of metal detectors for personal searches in the spirit of the personal search policy, Policy 7440. Duneland School Superintendent Dr. Ginger Bolinger said the new policy establishes ground rules for the use of the 23 metal detectors DSC acquired when Governor Eric Holcomb rolled-out a program earlier this summer to improve school safety by outfitting schools with handheld metal detectors. The basic text of Policy 7441 was taken from a template produced by the School Board Association and reviewed by the Duneland School Board’s attorney. DSC received its 23 metal detectors Friday.




Posted 8/22/2018




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