Chesterton Tribune



School Board splits 3-2 to approve Chesterton Fiber optic agreement

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Three members of the Duneland School Board were ready to sign on to an agreement with the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission on Monday for high-speed fiber optics.

Two board members -- Kristin Kroeger and Ronald Stone -- were not.

Both dissenters said they were not against the proposed resolution for the RDC to provide fiber optic services to the school corporation but that the vote should be delayed until officials could calculate what the value is in terms of actual dollars and cents that the corporation stands to gain in the deal, if any.

“I think that needs to be known before we sign this,” Kroeger said.

The Chesterton RDC unanimously adopted a resolution last week to pass TIF revenues on to the schools--up to 15 percent, the maximum that state statute allows. However, as attorney Chuck Parkinson pointed out, the resolution gives the RDC the authority “to provide services in lieu of actual funds.”

According to the resolution agreement, in return for the services, the schools would provide educational programs, work training programs or any programs that would prepare employees for economic development.

The agreement is to last 10 years, similar to one the board has with the Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission, with subsequent renewal terms of five years after that.

The Town of Chesterton would be responsible for the installation and infrastructure of the fiber optics.

But Kroeger asked would there really be a value, since there already are fiber optics in the school corporation. According to Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett, Duneland has “the most fiber optics of anyone in the community.”

The RDC wouldn’t be able to estimate the dollar value, Parkinson said, until it chooses a network design consultant. But with the installation, the schools should be able to eliminate the costs of infrastructure from its budget.

Since the schools are said to have fiber optics already, Kroeger and Stone asked what the benefit would be of taking the services rather than taking direct funds.

“We might never get a dime. We might not get anything,” Stone said.

Board member Mike Trout, who is a non-voting ex-officio member on the Chesterton RDC, said he’s in favor of the measure, hailing it as “a chance to work cooperatively with (Chesterton).”

“This is what the RDC is offering us,” Trout said.

Board member John Marshall also felt confident in acting on the agreement rather than tabling it as Stone and Kroeger suggested, arguing that this will cut costs for the schools.

Board President Ralph Ayres said that whatever the value may be, the Indiana School Board Association encourages local redevelopment commissions to “support the schools in every form we can.” Ayres sits as a non-voting member of the Burns Harbor RDC and the Porter County RDC.

“I’m personally willing to go forward and see where we go with this at this point,” Ayres said.

Ayres voted “yea” on the resolution as did Trout and Marshall, passing the resolution by a vote of 3-2.

The question was asked whether or not the fiber optic network would be for all schools, not just those within the Town of Chesterton. Trout said there are possible ways in which an RDC can spread its revenues outside of its TIF boundaries under its authority.

Accountability grades

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Jim Goetz reported that all of Duneland Schools received A grades last week in the Indiana Department of Education’s school accountability grades.

“I doubt there are a lot of school corporations in the state that get to say that. It’s a very nice feather for us,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools David Pruis said it’s fortunate that the Indiana General Assembly passed bills just in time to hold schools harmless from the 2015 ISTEP scores.

Goetz said the state will be releasing the accountability grades for entire school corporations on Wednesday.

Legislative update

In other business, Pruis mentioned legislative bills affecting education to keep an eye on as they move from the Indiana House of Representatives to the Senate and vice versa.

House Bill 1001 is a roads funding bill but Pruis said that he learned Friday a proposal in it would lower the rate of personal income tax from 3.25 to 3.06 percent in order to offset the increase to the gas tax for road funding.

Lowering the income tax rate will mean less money for schools, Pruis said, since its figured into the state’s tuition funding support formula.

Lawmakers are also considering legislation that would address issues of dual credit classes, such as HB 1730, Pruis said. New regulations from the Higher Learning Commission, a national organization, have mandated that starting in 2017 teachers have advanced degrees in the dual credit subjects they teach, but there is interest in delaying that until 2022.

HB 1002, which would give $7,500 in annual scholarships for teaching students, would cost about $1.5 million for 200 students and eventually $6 million per year when the program grows to 800 students in a few years.

Wednesday is the final day that bills be voted on and switched over to the House or Senate, Ayres said.

Ayres reminded the board and those in the audience that this Saturday is the legislative breakfast and forum hosted by the Dunes Shore District Council of the Indiana State Teachers Association. The breakfast will start at 8:30 a.m. at Portage High School’s west cafeteria.

Discussion topic meeting:

School Safety

Before adjourning, Ayres mentioned the board will host one of its quarterly school discussion topic meetings at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22 which the public is welcome to attend.

This morning, Ayres informed the Chesterton Tribune the topic will be school safety and security.


Posted 2/2/2016




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