Chesterton Tribune



School Board to advertise 2014 budget at $64.4 million

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The Duneland School Board moved forward in its annual budget process Monday, granting administrators permission to advertise the 2014 budgets at a total of $64,397,556.

The discussions were quieter than years past as the dollar amounts were comparable to what was budgeted last year. The 2013 budget had been advertised at $63,525,458 and was certified at $62,616,299.

DSC’s new chief financial officer Lynn Kwilasz said the budgets, along with levies and tax rates, will be advertised higher than anticipated to so that the school corporation can achieve the highest amount of funding that can be appropriated once it is finalized by the Department of Local Government Finance.

“It’s a protection mechanism for punitive damages” in case of a lower assessment in property values to set tax rates high enough to generate adequate revenues, Kwilasz said.

Tax rates will be advertised for the following budgets that are collected from property taxpayers: the referendum fund (.2435), the debt service fund (.3534), the pension debt fund (.0764), the capital projects fund (.4540), the transportation operation fund (.1960) and the bus replacement fund (.0347).

The overall sum of the tax rates in the 2014 budget as advertised will be 1.358, comparable to the 2013 advertised amount of 1.2407 which was later certified at 1.0984.

The estimated maximum amount of funds that can be raised from the levy comes to $28,568,800. The 2013 certified levy was $26,772,596 after Duneland advertised a total of $29,793,020.

According to the new budget figures Kwilasz presented (parentheses are the 2013 estimates), the capital projects fund will be advertised at an estimated $10,500,000 ($10, 378,124), the referendum fund at $5,675,000 ($4,782,000), the debt service fund at $7,412,225 ($7,872,512), the school pension debt fund at $1,601,431 ($1,596,391), the transportation operations fund at $3,996,900 ($3,866,342), and the bus replacement fund at $667,000 ($650,089).

Kwilasz’s estimated total for the 2014 general fund, which pays for operations and teacher salaries, stands at $34,575,000, which is $195,000 more than advertised for the 2013 budgets. The state has taken control of the General Fund and provides funding from sales and income tax based on enrollment beginning in 2009.

The schools hope to replace a total of six buses next year and will hang on to accumulations in its cash balance to replace more buses in the coming years. The recent 12-year plan shows transportation directors wish to replace seven buses in 2017, eight in 2018, and nine in 2019, which could prove a challenge as replacement costs continue to steadily rise.

Meanwhile in the capital projects fund, $2,559,100 will be advertised for building acquisition and construction projects. Another $1,851,000 is estimated for building rentals and $2,318,550 for “other proposed expenditures” which is where technology expenses now fall, Kwilasz said.

The CPF budget also estimates $611,326 for emergency allocation, $541,500 for utilities and $100,000 for sports facilities.

Schools Superintendent Dave Pruis said Duneland has “been very fortunate” to be able to advertise for funds in its CPF fund as he mentioned one school system in the Indianapolis area where the fund is capped at $0. Other schools in northern Lake County have also been hit hard by tax caps, he said.

“Over the years our capital projects fund has allowed us to maintain our facilities,” said Pruis. “We should be in good shape (next year).”

With the board’s authorization, the school will advertise the estimated budget in the Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 editions of the Chesterton Tribune. The board will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. at the DSC Administration Center.

Kwilasz said the advertised budget will be presented to the Porter County Council for a non-binding review required now by state law.

Referendum fund

From the audience, CHS teacher and co-president of the Duneland Teachers Association Michele Bartels asked if the public will be able to “understand” why the tax rate in the referendum fund is advertised at .2435 when voters were asked to approve a rate of .22, or 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, in last year’s referendum.

Kwilasz said the schools are advertising the referendum rate higher than anticipated in order to capture the full amount of revenue that can be collected but the state’s certified rate will not exceed 22 cents.

Last year school officials advertised the rate at 22 cents and the state certified it at .2056 with a levy of $5,292,558 when the schools could have received up to $5.6 million had they been told by the state they could advertise a higher rate. The rate dropped because the number was based on an assessed value higher than what the schools based their 2013 budget on.

The schools are capped at what they advertise, Pruis said.

Kwilasz said she will be prepared to explain the matter to the public who may question it during the public hearing or anytime during the budgeting process.

Next meeting

The board will meet next on Sept. 9 for a regular meeting that won’t be focused on budgeting matters.


Posted 8/27/2013