Chesterton Tribune


State certifies Duneland Schools 2013 budget; referendum rate is lower than 22 cents

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The Duneland Schools Corporation learned it could have gotten a few more bucks out of its referendum according to the 2013 budget certified by the state this month.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Dave Pruis presented the Duneland School Board Thursday with a two-column sheet, one showing the advertised budget that was approved by the board in September and another showing the state’s budget order which was released on Feb. 6.

Pruis pointed out the advertised budget was based on a total assessed value of $2,000,000,000 while the state’s budget took into account an AV of $2,405,918,136. This meant the tax rates in the state’s budget were less than what was advertised.

The school’s total rate advertised was 1.5200 while the state’s total was 1.0984, according to Pruis’ data.

The certified budget total came to $62,616,299, compared to the advertised $63,525,458, with a total levy of $26,772,596.

The amount for the General Fund was the same between the two budgets, $34,380,000 because the state sets the budget itself with a funding formula based on average student attendance.

Also the same was the school’s debt service at $7,812,512, the Pension Debt budget with $1,596,391, the Transportation budget at $3,866,342, and the Bus Replacement Fund with $650,089.

The budgets differed at the Capital Projects budget amount. Certified was $9,468,965 while it had been advertised at $10,378,124.

Pruis said the school board had approved a resolution to neutralize the pension debt with the Capital Funds project by 25 percent in 2013, 50 percent in 2014, and 75 percent in 2015, until it is completely resolved in 2016.

Next, Pruis showed the board the state had used the $4,782,000 it advertised for the referendum budget using the maximum 22-cent option. The amount was certified but because the certified AV was more than what the schools based their advertised budget on, the rate came to .2056 instead with a levy of $5,292,558.

Baer said that he wished the school corporation could have been informed that they could have advertised the higher amount to get the full benefit of the 22-cents per $100 of AV. He said the schools could have received a levy of about $5.6 million, more than $300,000 more in the school’s general fund, which they now will not be able to collect.

“This will do well,” Baer said about the resulting $5.3 million levy, but he said that he “did not like” the state or the county not advising that the advertised amount could have been set higher.

“You are capped at what you advertise,” Pruis said.

Pruis said this year’s AV was $11 million less than what it was in 2012 which is down about 16 percent from 2008’s total, $265,274,488.

Audit check okay

Meanwhile, Duneland Corporation Business Manager and Treasurer Bonnie Gaston said there were only minor problems reported in the recent audit the state board of accounts conducted for the period of July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012.

“It really was not bad at all,” Gaston said.

The audit report did complain about a few instances of improper documentation. One example was the corporation’s documents showed 93 students graduated with an academic honors diploma in 2010 but had reported 94 students to the Department of Education.

Gaston said she followed the information in the report and got the situation resolved with the Department of Education.

Other items questioned in the audit:

-- In several instances, money from the school’s general fund was being used to purchase extra-curricular items, like one specific time when Bailly Elementary paid for staff dinner expenses from the general fund.

-- Two certificates of deposit purchased from the athletic fund were automatically renewed by the depository without the knowledge or agreement of the extra-curricular treasurer.

-- Westchester Intermediate School had improperly receipted $1,686.70 from a 2011 student fundraiser into the faculty general account.

-- Twenty percent of the disbursements reviewed lacked proper documentation. The claim forms had no attachments beyond a purchase order.

Gaston attributed the errors partly to changes in personnel. She said she has discussed the items with the state for corrections.

Board President Mike Trout commented, “Well, they have to find something.” He said he remembers previous audit reports also giving minor complaints but none of the audits have shown any wrongdoing on the part of the school.


Posted 2/22/2013