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.
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
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
“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
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.
willing to go forward and see where we go with this at this point,” Ayres
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
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.
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
Goetz said the
state will be releasing the accountability grades for entire school
corporations on Wednesday.
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
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 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.
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
This morning, Ayres
informed the Chesterton Tribune the topic will be school safety and