Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Duneland School Board retains consultant for possible tax referendum

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The Duneland School Board has retained the financial consulting services of Umbaugh, in the run-up to a possible new property-tax referendum in 2019.

At their meeting Monday night, members voted unanimously to approve a contract with Umbaugh, in an amount not to exceed $28,000, under which the firm “will help us understand our current tax rate and how much we should seek to raise it,” Superintendent Dr. Ginger Bolinger told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting.

The board has already retained the legal consulting services of Ice Miller LLP and the issue advocacy services of the Winston/Terrell Group, should the board opt to pursue another referendum, Bolinger said.

The referendum narrowly approved by Duneland voters in 2012--by 4,093 Yes votes to 3,940 No votes, a wafer-thin difference of only 153--levied an additional rate of up to 22 cents on property owners’ tax bills. That rate took effect in 2013 and will expire in 2019. Should the board put a new rate on a referendum in 2019, and that referendum passes, it would take effect in 2020.

The additional 22-cent rate was expected to raise around $5.6 million per year and was justified at the time as necessary to plug a growing budget shortfall and preempt anticipated staffing cuts.

Additional Appropriation

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve an additional appropriation of $676,000: $206,000 from the Rainy Day Fund and $470,000 from the Referendum Fund.

The moneys will be used to purchase a pair of SUVs, one for student transportation, the other a security vehicle ($56,000); district-wide computer network upgrades ($150,000); student devices ($175,000); audio/video upgrades in seven classrooms ($60,000); CHS robotics equipment ($85,000); and elementary school media center upgrades ($150,000).

Auditing Services

The board also voted unanimously approved a contract with Crowe LLP to provide an independent risk assessment of the Duneland School Corporation’s internal controls (not to exceed $28,000), as well as conduct an audit of its Extracurricular Activities accounts (not to exceed $14,500).

Bolinger noted, with respect to the former, that in 2016 the board adopted minimum internal control standards recommended by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Indiana Uniform Code, and that with that adoption “a commitment to assessing, evaluating, and documenting those internal controls was implied.”

With respect to the latter, Bolinger said that the State Board of Accounts has not consistently audited school districts’ extracurricular activities accounts since 2012, and that roughly half of the staffers currently working with them in the Duneland Schools has never been audited.

High Ability

Meanwhile, Christy Jarka, director of elementary learning, performance, and grant programs, and Holly Koedyker, a high-ability licensed teacher at Liberty Elementary, gave the board a presentation on the Duneland Schools high-ability program.

Among other things, they spoke of the continuing professional development activities of high-ability teachers and staff, and of the gradual phasing out of the so-called “pull-out program” in the elementary schools, under which high-ability K-4 students have been pulled out of their regular classes for 30 minutes a day of specialized teaching. The pull-out program has already ended in kindergarten; and it will end for first-graders in academic year 2018-019; second graders in 2019-20; third-graders in 2020-21; and fourth-graders in 2021-22.

Instead, all elementary teachers will be “empowered to teach high-ability kids,” Koedyker said. “Students aren’t high-ability only 30 minutes a day. And other students will benefit too with the bar being raised.”

For more information on the high-ability program, Jarka urged parents to visit the Duneland Schools website at www.duneland.k12.in.us and click on the “Programs and Services” tab for “High Ability Program.”

DLZ Donation

President John Marshall took a moment at the end of the meeting to thank DLZ for its generous donation of $4,600 to be used for the purchase of a large format printer.

It’s companies like DLZ and other firms that make the Duneland Difference,” Marshall said.

 

 

Posted 7/18/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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