Chesterton Tribune

Duneland expects new school budget will be similar to 2012

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Duneland Assistant Superintendent Dave Pruis was less than enthusiastic Thursday in starting talks with the school board about the 2013 budgets for the Capital Projects Fund and Bus Replacement Funds.

Starting the summer tradition of drawing up the annual school budget, Pruis gave a preliminary overview of what to expect for the two funds which are primarily paid for by local property taxes, and it’s a lot of déjà vu, with continued funding cuts from the state.

The CPF fund, which pays for professional services, building and land acquisition, construction improvements, maintenance of equipment, emergency allocations and other items, totals $10,378,124 in the 2013 budget, approximately the same as that sought for 2012.

Pruis expects Duneland have just $8.2 million in the CPF in line with what the state appropriated the fund last year.

Larger items in the CPF: $2 million for rental of buildings, facilities and equipment; $1.6 million for building acquisition, construction and improvements; $1.5 million for equipment maintenance; $1.4 million for technology purchases; and just over $1 million for utilities and property and casualty insurance.

Pruis reminded the board that these are just projections and the line items will likely be tweaked by the state, then brought back to the school board for final review later in the fall. Budget adoption is tentatively set for Monday, Oct. 1.

“As always, we’ll construct a budget we can fund and we will be in the black,” Pruis said.

Meanwhile, the Bus Replacement Fund calls for replacing five regular 66-passenger school busses this year and a 27 passenger mini bus. Pruis said he also made an appropriation for a 48-passenger special education bus, at a total cost of $631,000, but said he is doubtful the state will fully fund the request, as was the case last year.

State legislation requires the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to set a maximum levy for the Bus Replacement Funds.

Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer repeated the comment that the schools must now approve 12-year bus replacement funds, instead of the previous 10-year plans. He said harsh winter weather has caused the buses to rust to the point where they are inadequate and maintenance costs have continued to spike.

Board President Janice Custer griped at the fact the state reported having a $2 billion surplus this year when some of that money could have been used to help schools which need it.

“If you don’t spend it on roads and schools, you’re going to have a lot of extra money,” she said.

Adding to the grievances, Baer said the tax caps have stunted revenues to the CPF and Bus Replacement Funds and the corporation will have to make do with lower revenues.

Preliminary reviews for all 2013 budgets, including the General Fund, will be made at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 13, followed the Budget Review/Authorization to Advertise either Monday or Tuesday, Aug. 27-28 and a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 10.

The 2013 General Fund will not yet be affected by the recent referendum approving an increase of .22 cents per $100 of assessed value on property. Those additional taxes will not be collected until next year.

In other business, the board approved renewal of the school’s property and casualty insurance at a price of $666,975, which was a $40,000 hike over last year, said Duneland Schools Business Manager Bonnie Gaston.

Gaston said the increase was due to a number of factors including an excessive claim at one of the middle schools, but she is fairly confident costs will decline next year.

Roofing projects

temporarily grounded

In his last address to the board, Director of Support Services Mark McKibben reported three summer roofing projects have stalled due to a roofer’s strike.

That leaves in question whether the projects at Liberty Intermediate, Bailly Elementary or Westchester Intermediate will be completed by the first day of school on Aug. 22.

“Everything has come to a screeching halt,” said McKibben, who said the recent wave of intense summer heat could also play a factor. Materials for LIS were on site when the strike broke out just a few days after the 2011-2012 school year ended.

McKibben said he has been in communication with two contractors who are quoting the jobs, but said labor issues like these can be costly to the school and asked the board to consider creating a policy for what happens when there are worker strikes.

“That’s not right for our students to come back to buildings that are not ready for them,” he said.

Because of the heat, maintenance staff has not been as busy this year, especially when it comes to mowing. McKibben said drought is “really stressing” the turf.

Thursday marked McKibben’s last day as Director of Support Services. He will be moving to Durango, Colo. to be closer to family. (see related story)

Ayres’ accolades

Ayres congratulated Custer and Baer for having recently been presented with Paul Harris Fellowship Awards by the Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club.

This is Baer’s sixth time winning the award and marks the first for Custer.

Ayres too recognized 2010 CHS graduate Kyle Whitaker for “putting Duneland on the map” competing in the Olympic Trials.

Whitaker placed 7th in the semi-finals two weeks ago swimming the 200-meter individual medley in 2 minutes, 1.23 seconds. Taking first and second in the event were Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. “He (Whitaker) did very well,” Ayres summarized.

Whitaker now swims for the University of Michigan, but the networks televising the event identified him as being from Chesterton, Ayres said.

ISTEP scores

The board did not address Thursday the results of this spring’s ISTEP test scores, which were released earlier this week.

Duneland achieved higher than the state average for students passing the Reading and Math portions but overall placed low in comparison with the county’s six other school districts.

Baer told the Tribune the scores will be talked about during the board’s Aug. 13 meeting.

Posted 7/13/2012