Chesterton Tribune



State sets Discovery Charter funding at $2.5 million leaving modest deficit

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The Discovery Charter School Board received its official budget figures from the Indiana Department of Education at its meeting Wednesday and saw its budget grow from $2.3 million to $2.56 million for the 2013-14 school year, which was not the 12 percent increase that school officials originally had predicted.

According to Discovery’s accountant Josh Samuelson of American Quality Schools, the reason the 12 percent estimate was high is that the state had combined the basic charter school grant with the amount received for the full-day kindergarten grant for the overall budget figure instead of separating them as in years past.

Factoring out the $144,000 from the kindergarten grant, the increase for Discovery’s basic grant is closer to 11.5 percent, said board member Allan Gabriele.

Discovery Director Ernesto Martinez said that the per-pupil funding reflected in the budget is $4,569.

That figure matches an estimate that Duneland School officials reported at a school board meeting in June of what its per-student formula would be for the 2014 fiscal year.

Discovery and Duneland have had similar per-pupil amounts in previous years as well.

Martinez said he wasn’t sure how the state arrives at those figures but when a charter school starts in its first year it receives the same per-pupil funding as the school district in which it is located.

For the second year and beyond, per-pupil funding for charter schools is based on previous year’s funding and student attendance counts.

Martinez said that he has determined there is a currently a deficit of $150,000 in Discovery’s budget against the figures that the DOE gave.

He said that he will look for places in the budget that can be “shaved” in attempt to get the budget back in the black.

Personnel will not be one of those places, he said. “We won’t be cutting any positions since we are already understaffed,” Martinez said.

One method Martinez is using to solve the problem is to increase the student count. The projected registration figure for next week is 478 students and Martinez said he hopes to beef up enrollment to about 495 students.

Targeted expansions will be kindergarten with three classes of 22 students as well as a few more third graders.

The board approved the revised budget on a motion by board member Bill Schmuhl who made an addendum that an attempt be made to have the budget balanced by the board’s next meeting in August.

Board President Laurie Metz said there is an additional savings of up to $30,000 with the board’s approval Wednesday of a change of maintenance/custodian workers as Discovery’s contract with its current provider is about to expire. The board approved hiring a full-time employee of its own to perform cleaning and maintenance tasks during the day and night. The new employee will start work on Aug. 12.

Gabriele who heads Discovery’s development committee said the group is still interested in working with the Porter County Community Foundation which assists non-profit groups in finding ways to raise money. It hosts monthly roundtable discussions for networking and learning from other development groups.

“It’s a powerhouse for non-profits. We have them on our radar. I think it’s a good thing,” Gabrielle said.

Funding priorities for the development committee include getting a new bar code system for the books in the library and giving computers the ability for students to do online research, expansion of the gymnasium and enhancements to the science room.

“We’ll keep the lists going,” Gabriele said.

In the meantime the board is also making strides to finish payment on loans taken out for the purchase of the Discovery school building. It is also thinking of purchasing the neighboring piece of land where a barn sits.

Indianapolis attorney John Anderson who works with non-profit groups has reached out to the board offering his services to advise on land purchasing and finance.

In other business, the board agreed to seek out the services of Wieland & Company to perform an audit on financial records approved from June 30 this year.

Meanwhile, Board member Janine Girzadas who is president of Discovery’s Parent Advisory Council said the PAC Fall Festival will be Sunday, Oct. 6, from 1-4 p.m.



Posted 7/25/2013