Chesterton Tribune

Low investment interest rate adds to Duneland Schools budget woes

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Cuts from the state are not the only funding obstacles for the Duneland School Corporation as Schools Business Manager Bonnie Gaston reported all-time lows for investment earnings generated off the schools’ general fund.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Gaston said 2011’s interest accumulated was $33,006; a little more than half of what was reported last year -- $59,013.

What Gaston and the board found even more alarming was how much of a drop occurred from $710,232 in 2007 to $110,783 in 2009.

“I didn’t’ think it was going to be as bad as it was,” said Gaston, who said interest rates on the funds were as low as .4 percent.

After extensively checking with area banks, Gaston said it made little sense to put the money into a CD as more could be made in the savings account.

The decline in interest earnings could mean further cuts are in store unless school officials are able to find another revenue source.

“It takes a problem and exacerbates it,” said Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer. “For a school like Duneland, (the money) is a big part of how we operate.”

The school corporation also earned $20,488 in interest from its health fund and $3,784 from the pension bond fund in 2011, close to last year’s figures.

Budget matters will make up a large part of the board’s next meeting on Feb. 13 when it will determine whether to pursue efforts to secure more funding or trim certain areas of the budget after hearing from the state on the 2012 budget submitted by board last fall.

Two input-gathering sessions will take place in advance at Chesterton High School auditorium on Feb. 6 and Feb. 9 for parents and staff to address their comments regarding what they would like to see done with the budget.

The board approved a contract with consultant Steve Klink of Lafayette, for $50,000 to provide guidance in budgetary matters. The money will be paid out of the schools’ rainy day fund. Klink has helped the Crown Point Schools with their finances, Baer said.

Board member Ralph Ayres had visited the Indiana Statehouse earlier on Monday and had the chance to speak with a few representatives on education. He said there are approximately 150 education bills drafted and 28 already assigned.

“There are a lot of ideas,” said Ayres, a former state representative himself.

To the question of whether the bills can restore funding, Ayres said there are no guarantees in this shorter session, but one positive note is that state revenues are up from last year.

Fellow board members asked if any of the discovered $320 million that was unaccounted for in the state coffers will have an impact. Ayres said the state set the 2012 budget earlier last year and to use the recovered funds would mean opening the budget back up.

However, legislators could introduce spending bills to reinstate some of the funding.

Officers and Personnel

Janice Custer will once again lead the board for 2012 and was presented with a plaque by Baer for her dedication as a member.

Baer made note of the fact this is the first time a member has served consecutive terms as president.

“We’re setting a new precedent this year,” said Baer. “Thank you, Janice, for your service and I look forward to working with you another year.”

Michael Trout will be vice-president this year and Ayres will serve as the board’s secretary. The board again picked Ayres to be liaison to the Indiana School Board Association’s legislative and policy committees.

As in 2011, Custer will be liaison for the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission while board member Ronald Stone will be liaison for the Porter Commission and Ayres for Burns Harbor.

Board members’ stipend was flatlined at their 2011 figure. Members will be paid $2,000 for this year plus $112 for each regular meeting and $62 for special executive sessions.

The board unanimously approved retaining local attorney Mike Harris as Duneland’s legal advisor. Dr. John Forchetti will continue as the corporation’s appointed physician, with a $2,000 stipend.

Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett provided the board with a new list of personnel appointments and resignations. Lisette Melcarek has been brought on as an instructional aide for Chesterton Middle School; T.R. Harlan has been made head coach of Chesterton High School Boys Track; and Carmen Phillip will serve as the long-term substitute for Yost Elementary kindergarten teacher Cassie Nay.

Resigning is Chesterton Middle School instructional aide Mary Edwards.

CMS Fundraiser Yields $3,000

Chesterton Middle School art teacher Jody Nix, science teacher Samantha Hayes and English teacher Anne Stark showed the board a video presentation on new teaching initiatives they accomplished this year.

Nix worked with her students on crafting storybook chair s as a fundraiser for Parents As Teachers (PAT) which brought in $3,000 for the organization. Art students hand-painted children’s chairs based on a storybook of their choosing and displayed them as part of an exhibit at the Chesterton Art Center. The chairs were sold at an auction held through Dec. 18.

Another holiday fundraiser featuring papier mache reindeer brought in $700.

Hayes’ class constructed a “Vital Vivarium” to study the habitats of fish, birds and snakes, while Stark had her seventh-grade class read stories to second graders by means of podcast.

Both teachers said they would like to expand their programs to create more interaction between middle school and elementary schools. Hayes thought of starting an “insect petting zoo” for elementary students to visit.

Baer praised the efforts and saw the benefits of interacting across the grades as it would motivate all students involved.

“It’s really good for students and even the struggling students because they get to be the experts,” he said.

Also at the meeting, Duneland Director of Special Services Mark McKibben said the renovation of the old field house at Westchester Intermediate School is wrapping up and invited the board to see the upgrades once it is complete.




Posted 1/10/2012