Because more than half of Dunelanders who voted in last May’s school
referendum said yes to a 22 cent per $100 of assessed value property tax
increase, the Duneland School Corporation will be able to sustain its
teaching staff and its programs for 2013, said Schools Superintendent Dirk
The Duneland School Board on Monday carried out its yearly duty of working
through the school’s projected budget for 2013. The newest of all budgets is
the referendum budget which is expected to collect up to $4.8 million in
next spring’s property tax collection to help cover funding shortfalls seen
in next year’s Duneland school budget.
Baer said the additional money will not be available for the school to use
during its upcoming 2012-13 school year, but when it kicks in it will help
the school pay for its burgeoning costs. The county will levy the
referendum-approved tax through its spring property tax bills and then
disperse the funds to the school corporation.
Assistant Superintendent Dave Pruis who has been leading the budget
discussions with the board, said the corporation has seen a seven percent
increase in its health insurance costs for staff this year and significant
hikes in costs for utilities and building repairs.
Programs and salaries will still be flatlined as they have been in recent
years, Baer said, but if the referendum had been voted down the school at
this time would have been looking at serious and painful cuts, with up to 26
staff positions getting the ax.
“It was not just a scare tactic after all,” said Board president Janice
Custer, referring to criticisms made in days before the referendum vote.
Pruis said the state’s estimated allocations for the schools’ General Fund
will be close to $34.4 million, which is about $1.3 million less than what
was approved for 2012’s fund.
The General Fund is almost entirely made up of the state’s school funding,
generated through sales and income tax. It goes mostly to fund teacher
salaries. From the projected $34.4 million, $28.5 million is for basic
tuition support and almost $3 million is used for Special Education, Pruis
“Without the referendum you go back to that original amount, we would have
needed to take a cut of $4 million out of $34 million. That would NOT be
fun,” Pruis said.
To which Baer replied: “That’s why we did it.”
As he did at the board’s July meeting, Pruis reviewed the schools’ debt
service budget worth an expected $7.9 million (down $57,000 from this year);
the pension debt service bond fund of $1.6 million ($923,000 less than this
year); the Capital Projects fund of $10.4 million (about $200,000 less than
this year); the Transportation fund of $3.8 million (up more than $50,000
from this year); and the Bus Replacement Fund of approximately $650,000
(about $40,000 less than this year).
Pruis said the corporation is looking to purchase six new buses next year
and one smaller 27-passenger bus with what has been allocated in the bus
As it is estimated now, the total school corporation budget for 2013 sits at
approximately $58.75 million, not including the revenue from the referendum.
Duneland’s 2012 budget was roughly $62 million and the referendum should
raise it past that level, but it is still considerably less than the budgets
seen in years before the 2008 tax reforms, when the state stopped schools
from funding the General Fund from local property taxes.
With the presence of the tax caps and tax abatements, and the continued
decline in assessed values in many parts of the school district, Pruis said
Duneland’s prospective overall AV for this year is $2.416 billion, $4.6
million less than for this year. Sections of the school corporation that saw
the biggest reductions in AV include the Jackson Twp. area and Westchester
Twp., although some AVs did increase in areas like Liberty Twp., purportedly
because of the new hospital.
Meanwhile, Pruis said the Indiana legislature this year has enacted a
measure that would allow the school board more wiggle room in its capital
funds budget by neutralizing its pension debt.
The school must pay off its $1.6 million debt, but with the new resolution
the school corporation can provide additional money to the capital projects
fund, while paying off its debt by yearly increments of 25 percent through
the bus replacement fund. Pruis said it is only an estimated figure but $1.2
million more could be collected in the capital projects fund for next year,
followed by $800,000 the next and $400,000 the year after that, until the
neutralization reaches 100 percent.
“It will allow us to recoup some funds,” Pruis said.
Pruis said the additional funds could be used for badly needed roofing
projects such as the estimated $650,000 renovation project at Liberty
Intermediate School. The extra funds could also be spent on technology
Pruis warned the state would only allow schools to pass resolutions this
year. The board responded positively and gave Pruis permission to present
the resolution at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 27.
“I think you should pursue it,” Custer told Pruis.
The board looks to finalize the proposed budget at that meeting. As required
by state statute, a public hearing for the budget will take place on Monday,
Sept. 10 with an official adoption tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1. Budgets
must be approved before November.