Chesterton Tribune



No one speaks in public hearing for Duneland Schools budget

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The Duneland School Board held a public hearing for its proposed 2020 budget last night. No members of the public commented on the budget.

Duneland CFO Lynn Kwilasz did a presentation on the budget and how Duneland manages its funds. She also touched on Duneland’s 12-year bus replacement plan, which must be advertised every year though it is a long-range plan, and a list of capital projects expected through 2022.

Duneland’s estimated 2020 budget is $74,296,300. Of that, an estimated $29,713,000 is tax revenue and an estimated $38,354,642 is per-student state support calculated by Duneland’s Average Daily Membership (ADM), a headcount of students conducted each September and February.

Per the budget notice, expected tax revenue for Duneland in 2020 includes: $6,630,000 from the supplemental property tax rate approved via referendum, $8,333,000 for debt service, and $14,750,000 for operations. Kwilasz reported Duneland’s ADM for September hasn’t been finalized yet, but she estimates Duneland will receive approximately $5,854 per student for approximately 5,858 students.

How much Duneland taxes for debt service is based on its upcoming debt payments. Kwilasz noted Duneland is still making bond payments as part of its financial agreement for funding the construction of the High School in 2000, though those bonds will be paid off soon. Kwilasz also noted Duneland has to prioritize upcoming capital improvement projects and think about how those projects may be funded responsibly with a reasonable amount of debt.

Kwilasz reports she expects to lose money to tax caps this year because the Duneland area had very little overall Assessed Valuation (AV) growth. Kwilasz said County Auditor Vicki Urbanik attributed the stagnation to a change in the way utilities are assessed. “NIPSCO has a great deal of property and equipment in Duneland,” Kwilasz said. “Essentially, the loss there gobbled up our growth.”

Property owners in Indiana are protected from excessive taxation by tax caps, which dictate that property owners can only be taxed a maximum of 1% of their AV for residential property, 2% of their AV for retail property and farmland, and 3% for all other types of property. Certain tax rates, such as the supplemental property tax reupped by voters in May, are not subject to tax caps.

Because of the tax caps, Kwilasz said taxpayers will not see the full impact of the School’s tax rates. Kwilasz said she errs on the side of advertising higher rates, but Duneland will not be able to collect all the taxes it seeks, and the budget will have to be adjusted according to the expected loss.

DSC owns 91 vehicles, including different sized buses and special purpose vehicles, that are rotated out at-end-of-life. The bus replacement plan currently shows that Duneland plans to replace six buses next year, 10 buses in 2021, eight buses in 2022, six buses in 2023, and seven buses in 2024. Kwilasz has budgeted approximately $675,000 for 2020 bus replacements.

Director of Support Services Greg Lindy plans to have the results of a district-wide facilities assessment ready to present to the Board at its next meeting. Then, Kwilasz said the Board will know for sure what costly repairs should be priority for the coming year. The current capital projects list includes 16 multi-school or district-wide projects that have an estimated cost of approximately $4,160,000.

Those interested can view the budget notice, list of capital projects, and bus replacement plan on the Duneland School Website.


Posted 9/24/2019




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