Chesterton Tribune



Public has nothing to say on school budget; student count expected to dip

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The public got its chance Wednesday night to comment on the proposed Duneland School Corporation budgets for 2014 to the Duneland School Board, but instead opted to stay home.

With the exception of CHS teacher and Duneland Teachers Association co-president Michele Bartels, Director of Transportation Jim Bonfield and a few others, seats were unoccupied and no one spoke.

But Duneland administrators carried on their meeting as if they had a full crowd, with Schools Superintendent Dave Pruis and Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilasz explaining that the numbers they have advertised are purposefully “inflated,” because of a limited amount of information coming from the state, and doing so allows for the school corporation to collect the full amounts in its certified levies.

Individual hearings were held on the School Bus replacement fund, the Capital Projects Fund, and the state-supported General Fund bundled with the Transportation Fund, Debt Service Fund and Pension Debt Fund. The latter two are uncapped funds that the school district can set itself.

The School Bus Replacement Fund is a rate-capped, levy-based fund to support a 12-year bus replacement plan. This year, Duneland is seeking $667,000 in order to replace six buses in 2014 and keep the number of buses owned at 87.

Kwilasz said the schools will also hold on to a cash balance to pay for additional buses in the upcoming years as replacement costs are expected to rise. The plans show nine buses will need replacing in 2019 at an estimated cost of $1,147,400.

Board member John Marshall asked Kwilasz if assessed values will rise with the fund as it inflates. Kwilasz said it is possible although she “never trusts anything is going to go up at this point.” There is a statewide growth quotient on the levy which this year was 2.6 percent but it is adjusted every year.

Kwilasz said she based her calculations on a net assessed value of about $2.4 billion. According to figures from the County Auditor’s office, Duneland’s adjusted net AV this year was $2.396 billion.

The CPF fund, which is also capped, is advertised at $10.5 million which is $122,000 more than what was advertised for 2013, Pruis said. He said he expects that to be overstated by $1.5 million, meaning the state will certify the levy at about $9 million. The tax rate for a schools CPF fund can be close to 41.5 cents but Duneland’s is about 35 cents, he said.

The fund includes many line items such as $437,000 for land acquisition, $816,024 for Utilities, $2,559,100 for building improvements and $541,500 for computer maintenance and tech personnel.

Part of the CPF fund this year will be used for bond neutralization this year. Kwilasz said thirty percent will come out of the CPF fund while the other 70 percent will come out of the Transportation fund. Neutralization is expected to cost roughly $800,000 this year.

The Transportation fund has been advertised at $3.97 million. The latest estimate on the General Fund is $34.575 million, Kwilasz said, and she expects to have a more accurate figure by the next school board meeting on Oct. 7 for final budget review and adoption.

Also, the referendum fund is also overstated in order to collect the full 22 cents per $100 of assessed value. It is advertised at $5.675 million, a rate of nearly 24 cents but the state will bring it down to 22 cents, or about $5.2 million, Pruis said.

ADM counts

Meanwhile, Pruis let the board know that he and the administration team have been working to determine what the student count was for Sept. 13, the day the state uses to determine a school’s average daily membership which is part of the funding formula for the general fund.

“We’re going to be down 40 to 45 students this year we think,” said Pruis, compared to last year’s number. He said there were more students in Kindergarten this year and at the Middle School and High School but enrollment in grades 1-6 has declined.

Pruis said he anticipates having the accurate ADM count by the Oct. 7 meeting, which will also give the school board a better idea of how the general fund will be affected for the rest of 2013 and 2014.

Personnel report

Also submitted for approval was the personnel report by Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Human Relations Monte Moffett.

Appointments this term include Antonia Baron who will be a permanent custodian for Duneland Schools.

Melissa Simons has been appointed as a nurse for the high school. Also at CHS, Adam Cunningham and Karen Jones will serve as utility aides.

Alesia Bewick will be an instructional aide at Yost Elementary. Tracie Dunn-Hugunin will be a recess aide for Westchester Intermediate.

Two volunteer swim coaches for CHS have also been appointed Š Sean Swibes and Enique Anaya.

The board has accepted the resignations of CHS Social Studies teacher Julie Okeley-Nesbit effective Oct. 23, and CMS track coaches Kathryn Evans and Cara Ellerthorpe.



Posted 9/26/2013