Chesterton Tribune

 

 

How have the Duneland Schools referendum funds been spent?

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By LILY REX

The Duneland School Board is in the process of deciding what supplemental property tax rate it will seek next year--which is also the year Duneland voters will decide whether or not to renew the referendum allowing DSC to collect the supplemental tax.

Prior to 2008, local property taxes had supported Duneland’s general fund by default. State law on school funding changed dramatically that year when the Indiana General Assembly ruled that public school general funds would be funded exclusively from state sources doled-out based on a variable per student funding formula.

When the funding formula was changed, statute also changed to allow schools to collect a supplemental property tax rate of up to 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to support their general funds upon the passage of a voter-supported referendum. Duneland voters approved such a referendum by a slim margin in 2012 that went into effect in 2013.

The tax rate for Duneland’s referendum began at just over 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation (0.02056), in 2013 and increased to the maximum of 22 cents (0.2200) in 2014. From 2014 to 2018, the tax rate has never increased, remaining at 22 cents. The referendum has generated between $5 million and $6.3 million for the general fund each year since 2013.

Next year voters will decide whether or not they will continue to be taxed to provide that support.

What are those funds used for? Duneland’s Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilasz provided the Chesterton Tribune with charts detailing how referendum dollars have been spent each year since it was passed. Three main takeaways from the data are:

*  Each dollar collected from property tax revenue per the referendum is subsequently spent in one of three categories--salaries and benefits, utilities, or other;

*  Support staff including all DSC school nurses, between one and three elementary counselors, and all media specialists, secretaries, and aides (school library staff) have been paid from the referendum funds each year;

*  And both the amount of referendum funds spent on “other” expenses and the number of teachers paid from the referendum funds have trended upward.

Year-by-Year

In 2013, Duneland collected $4,954,690 in property tax revenue. 77% of the funds collected went to salaries and benefits, and 23% went to pay for utilities. 57 staff members were paid from the referendum funds. They included 29 teachers, one elementary counselor, four media specialists, nine nurses, and 14 media secretaries and aides.

In 2014, Duneland collected $5,747,759 in property tax revenue. 74% of the funds collected went to salaries and benefits, 19% went to utilities, and 7% went to other. The “Other” item in 2014 included professional development for all district employees and for teachers with International Baccalaureate approved courses, speech and debate travel, instructional hardware and software, printing services, membership in the NWI Educational Service Center, and expanded internet capabilities across the district. 107 staff members were paid from the referendum funds. They included 37 teachers, one elementary counselor, four media specialists, nine nurses, one student management system specialist, 13 media secretaries and aides, and 42 cafeteria/recess aides.

In 2015, Duneland collected $5,727,954 in property tax revenue. 73% of the funds collected went to salaries and benefits, 21% went to utilities, and 6% went to other. The “Other” item in 2015 included professional development for all district employees and for teachers with International Baccalaureate approved courses, speech and debate travel, instructional hardware and software, printing services, membership in the NWI Educational Service Center, anti-bullying program materials, snow removal, Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant matching funds, and student assessment software.

CMS and Jackson Elementary benefited from the LSTA grants, which Kwilasz said require a small match, in 2015 and 2016.

Further in 2015, 123 staff members were paid from the referendum funds. They included 38 teachers, one high ability teacher, one elementary counselor, four media specialists, nine nurses, one student management system specialist, 15 media secretaries and aides, and 54 cafeteria/recess aides.

In 2016, Duneland collected $6,034,567 in property tax revenue. 74% of the funds collected went to salaries and benefits, 16% went to utilities, and 10% went to other. The “Other” item in 2016 included professional development for all district employees and for teachers with International Baccalaureate approved courses, speech and debate travel, instructional hardware and software, printing services, membership in the NWI Educational Service Center, anti-bullying program materials, high ability supplies, expanded internet capability, health services equipment, snow removal, LSTA grant matching funds, and Dunes Learning Center related expenses.

Dunes Learning Center related expenses are for third and fourth grade overnight trips, which happen in large part due to “generous contributions” from the Flora Richardson Foundation, Kwilasz said. “In order to keep it affordable for parents, we do help with some expenses,” she added.

Further in 2016, 139 staff members were paid from the referendum funds. They included 44 teachers, one high ability teacher, three elementary counselors, four media specialists, nine nurses, three technology integration specialists, one student management system specialist, one accounting assistant, 14 media secretaries and aides, five high ability aides, two English language learner aides, and 52 cafeteria/recess aides.

In 2017, Duneland collected $6,346,462 in property tax revenue. 72% of the funds collected went to salaries and benefits, 15% went to utilities, and 13% went to other. The “Other” item in 2017 included professional development for all district employees and for teachers with International Baccalaureate approved courses, speech and debate travel, instructional hardware and software, printing services, membership in the NWI Educational Service Center, tech equipment, tech training, high ability supplies, anti-bullying program materials, Dunes Learning Center related expenses, and a district wide security program. 129 staff members were paid from the referendum funds. They included 43 teachers, one high ability teacher, three elementary counselors, four media specialists, nine nurses, three technology integration specialists, one student management system specialist, one accounting assistant, 14 media secretaries and aides, four high ability aides, two English language learner aides, and 44 cafeteria/recess aides.

2018 Projected

This year, the Board has advertised that they plan to ask for the maximum rate.

Kwilasz says they can still lower the rate after getting feedback on the 2019 budget from the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF), which will likely arrive in late December. Lowering the rate has been a topic of discussion at DSB meetings for several months now.

In 2018, Duneland has again spent the referendum funds on salaries and benefits, utilities, and other items. The “Other” item in 2018 includes professional development for all district employees and for teachers with International Baccalaureate approved courses, speech and debate travel, instructional hardware and software, printing services, membership in the NWI Educational Service Center, district-wide expanded internet capabilities, high ability supplies, health services equipment, digital curricular materials, snow removal, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) equipment and supplies, tech equipment, and security services from Guard 911. 130 staff members are being paid from the referendum funds. They include 43 teachers, one high ability teacher, three counselors, four media specialists, nine nurses, four technology integration specialists, one student management system specialist, one accounting assistant, 14 media secretaries, and 50 aides.

 

 

Posted 11/23/2018

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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