Chesterton Tribune



Duneland School Board mulls lowering referendum tax rate

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The Duneland School Board approved the 2019 bus replacement and capital projects plans and discussed reducing 2019 tax levies at its meeting Monday night.

Duneland Schools Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilasz reported that the bus replacement plan spans 12 years, but must be advertised every five years per state law. A list of capital projects must be made available to taxpayers outlining every proposed project that might exceed $10,000. Both of the plans are available for the public to review on the Duneland homepage. They are downloadable as PDF files in the bottom left corner of the page at

Kwilasz said buses are assessed annually for viability and marked for replacement before the 12 years are up as needed.

Board Vice-president Brandon Kroft started the discussion on the capital improvements plan.

“At least from my standpoint, there’s things on there I’m not comfortable with,” Kroft said. “But I think we can address those as they come up,” he offered.

Board President John Marshall agreed, and said the Board would need more information about some of the projects down the road. Member Mike Trout noted, “This is a plan, not a commitment. I think it’s important to remember that.”

Member Kristin Kroeger added that this is the first time the plan has been formed to span several years. The last listed project has an estimated start date of May 2021. Kroeger said it isn’t possible to know everything yet in the planning and added, “I’m comfortable with the other controls we have in place in terms of needing to approve projects over a certain amount.”

In terms of the 2019 tax levies, Kwilasz said the Board was free to adjust them Monday night, or to wait until hearing feedback on the 2019 budget from the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) and change the rates at the time of final budget approval.

Kroeger asked Kwilasz what the Board’s options were for reducing one of the tax rates to soften the impact of a transfer of payments for an outstanding lease from the Capital Projects Fund to the Debt-Service Fund. That move, approved at the last meeting, is projected to increase a taxpayer’s dedicated debt-service rate by a maximum of $0.024 declining to $0.0139 in the final year of payments, 2024.

“The levy went up on debt-service by 2.4 cents, so I would like to reduce something by 2.4 cents to keep that neutral on the taxpayers,” Kroeger said.

Kwilasz said she doesn’t recommend reducing the operating rate. Though she said other rates can be reduced, including the referendum rate. Superintendent Dr. Ginger Bolinger cautioned that reducing the referendum rate means collecting fewer funds that can be spent with more flexibility than others, like the debt-service funds.

Kroeger said, to her understanding, “because we have a cash balance in debt service we can neutralize what we just did,” which Kwilasz confirmed. Kwilasz noted that reducing either the debt-service or referendum rate works, but “The only thing about debt service is that if there’s a need for that cash balance, you’ve taken that away.”

“Although, another fund could loan it money if there was a problem,” she added.

Board Secretary Ron Stone leaned toward reducing the referendum rate, but said he’d like to see feedback on the budget before deciding. Trout was less hesitant.

“We have an opportunity to make some changes if we need to,” Trout said. “They’re looking for the maximum impact for what we can do for our students and our community. To me, we should adopt these as presented.”

The Board unanimously opted to adopt the rates as presented, retaining the right to reduce them later.

In other budget business, the Board approved a resolution to allow either Bolinger or Kwilasz to tweak the budget by reducing line items in four areas after receiving the report from DLGF. Kwilasz said the Board has generally granted this authority in the past, as the report is likely to come out around the holidays, when it would be inconvenient to schedule a meeting. If necessary, she and Bolinger would communicate with the Board members before making changes and act on their behalf to reduce either the 2019 budget appropriations, appropriations needed for the last half of 2018, the operating balance, or the referendum tax rate.

Superintendent’s Comments

Bolinger reported there was productive discussion at the first Bagels with Bolinger event where ten members of the community came to speak with her.

Bolinger also announced that this year’s winter card contest begins Friday, Oct. 12. Students of all ages at the Duneland Schools are invited to submit a card on 8.5 by 11-inch paper folded in half. Submissions are due Nov. 1.

Other Business

Duneland received its AdvancED certificate of accreditation, following a team of six experts from the organization conducting an evaluation of Duneland between Jan. 21 and Jan. 24. AdvancED, Inc. is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that evaluates schools and grants accreditation with a goal of improving schools.

Duneland Wellness and Nutrition Manager Tammy Watkins announced that Duneland will begin participating in the mobile marketplace, a Northwest Indiana Foodbank Program that takes the food pantry on wheels.

Watkins said the Food Bank will deliver 100 Thanksgiving dinners on Nov. 20, then Duneland’s food service works will set up and prepare to give them away to families in need. Watkins said she hopes it will be a good teambuilding exercise for her employees.

If more than 100 people show up, Watkins said they will receive vouchers or be directed to another location. If there is food left over, it will be sent to the closest local food pantry. Watkins said she hopes to host the mobile marketplace once a month if the first event goes well.

Next Bagels with Bolinger Nov. 15 at 9:30 a.m.

Duneland Schools Superinten-dent Dr. Ginger Bolinger reported the second Bagels with Bolinger will take place at the Lakeland Park Arts and Crafts Building at Lakeland Park in Burns Harbor on Nov. 15 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

The date for the second Bagels with Bolinger event was previously advertised as Oct. 15, which is incorrect. There is no DSC event in Burns Harbor on Oct. 15.



Posted 10/12/2018




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