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October 16, 2012

Audit of Greater Clark finances shows tight times ahead

2013 budget may require cuts

NEW WASHINGTON — Though the board unanimously passed all three portions of the district’s 2013 budget, a third-party auditor warned that next year could prove fiscally rocky for Greater Clark County Schools.

Marvin Ward, a consultant and former chief financial officer of Brownsburg Community Schools, said without considering job cuts through attrition or other means, Greater Clark will set itself up for a $1 million defect by the end of 2013.

He said the depletion of the rainy day fund, property tax caps’ impact and decreasing enrollment all play a role in the budget, but the district needs to work with other government agencies in the county to try to alleviate some of the pressure.

“This isn’t just the school corporation’s problem, this is a community problem,” Ward said. “[Superintendent] Dr. [Andrew] Melin and I were talking before the meeting and you are the financial driver for this community. People won’t move here if your schools are not doing well.

“We need to make sure the county and city offices understand that and work with you in some cooperative fashion and help reduce [tax increment finance districts] and lessen the impact of the circuit breaker.”

He said the loss from property taxes — as a result of the caps — will likely be about twice what the district suffered last year, at about $936,000. But another key issue he said was outspending what the district makes every year — an average of about $2 million in expenditures versus revenues for the last five years.

But enrollment also brings up issues. The district’s enrollment declined by about 100 students this year and the amount of money it brings in per student also decreased by about $116. He said that alone will cost Greater Clark about $500,000.

Insurance costs were also an issue and Ward suggested the board look into on-site care facilities for employees, which could reduce their costs as well as the district’s.

But Kevin Satterly, board member, said the idea of cutting teachers isn’t something he wants to see. He used that point as a reason to stress the importance of voter participation in November.

“If you don’t vote, please do,” Satterly said. “Because the last thing I want to do is one thing I heard, was to cut people. We just can’t do it. There’s not enough of them out there with the kids as it is and that’s our job.

“We need to figure out a way not to do it.”

Ernie Gilbert, an outgoing school board member after this election, also stressed the importance of voting and the corner he thinks the state has backed school districts into.

“The state of Indiana has decided that public education is not that important a decision,” Gilbert said. “They have cut us and they’ve cut us and they’ve cut us. And now they’ve put us in a situation where we won’t be able to maintain our buildings.”

He said if cuts are made to teaching staff, the district likely won’t be able to maintain its standard of education.

“The class sizes will increase as we go along and people say it doesn’t make any difference,” Gilbert said. “It does make a difference. It doesn’t make a difference if you have one more kid than you had before, but put five, six or seven more kids in a classroom and it does make a decision.”

Melin said through it brought bad news, he was glad to have an independent expert give another view on where the district will stand by next year.

“We’ll be working on this over the course of the next several months to get a balanced budget plan in place,” Melin said.

The audit was performed at a cost of $5,000.

In other business at the meeting, the board voted unanimously to seek a transportation appeal from the state to offset the costs of additional routes and increasing fuel costs.

Thomas Dykiel, chief financial officer, said the state isn’t likely to give the district any additional funding for increasing fuel costs, but funding for the additional routes probably won’t likely be a problem to secure. He said the district has added those routes through several years, but never requested the additional money for them.

The board also unanimously approved to install electrical systems at the Jeffersonville High School Tennis Building. The project is funded by the team’s booster organization, which is a practice the board expressed interest in ending.

The board also approved spending extracurricular account money at three different schools and the renewal of the current long-term disability group insurance plan.

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