News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 14, 2013

Vigo County School Corp. preparing $148.8 million budget for 2014

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Corp. will advertise an overall $148.8 million budget for 2014.

The School Board took the first step in the budget process at its meeting Monday night, approving advertisement of the budget and separate funds, which are as follows:

• General fund (funded by the state, not local property taxes) — $108.7 million.

• Debt service, $8.5 million.

• Capital projects, $22.7 million.

• Transportation, $6.8 million.

• Bus replacement, $2.1 million.

The $148.8 million is 5 percent higher than the 2013 approved budget of $141.7 million, but officials expect that overall figure to come down several million dollars by the time the budget is finalized by the state’s Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF).

As usual, the district advertises budgets, levies and tax rates higher than anticipated “to ensure the school corporation receives adequate revenues to support programs,” said Donna Wilson, VCSC chief financial officer. “For advertisement purposes, we assume a low assessed value in order to make sure we advertise a rate high enough to generate adequate revenues.”

Based on recommendations from the DLGF, “We chose to use [a county] assessed value of $3 billion — nearly 15 percent lower than the current assessed value — for our calculations,” she explained.

DLGF will refigure all tax rates based on actual assessed value when those are available “and will limit the levy growth and approved rates to those allowed by statute,” Wilson said. The state agency “strictly enforces statutes that limit levy growth or rate growth.”

To put it in perspective, she provided a chart to the School Board showing a historical tax rate comparison for the past five years (after application of the Property Tax Replacement credit, a state program of tax relief.)

In 2009, the rate was 78 cents per $100 assessed value; 2010, 75 cents; 2011, 73.8 cents; 2012, 76 cents; and 2013, 77 cents.

“When all the unknowns surrounding the 2014 budget are answered, we anticipate a tax rate that is consistent with those of the past,” Wilson stated in her presentation.

But she also noted, the rate has gone up a few cents in recent years because of a drop in the county’s assessed value. “We hope this trend does not continue,” Wilson said.

The advertised maximum to be raised from local property taxes is $37.6 million for 2014, again, an inflated figure. The actual approved levy for 2013 was $28.4 million.

The board will conduct a public hearing on the budgets Aug. 26, with adoption Sept. 9.

The advertised general fund is up about $1.7 million for 2014, but overall it “remains very consistent with the current year,” Wilson said. The fund supports ongoing educational programs of the school corporation.

The district maintains a strong cash balance and adheres to an ongoing cost conservation plan to preserve educational programs and employees who provide those programs, Wilson said. Nearly 90 percent goes for employee salary and benefits.

The debt service budget includes funding for two lease-rental obligations; two short-term general obligation bonds; anticipated temporary loan interest of $200,000 if needed; and $292,705 for textbook rental.

The amount for textbook rental is the shortfall not paid by the state but due the textbook rental fund for those students who qualify for free textbooks.

In capital projects, building improvements and equipment acquisition continue to remain at the top of the list, budgeted at $11.3 million and $5.3 million, respectively. The 2014 CPF budget includes $4 million for the renovation of Hoosier Prairie Elementary.

That budget also  includes $3.3 million for utilities/insurance and $240,000 for sports facilities, among other categories.

The bus replacement fund and plan allows schools to replace 1/12 of the fleet each year. In 2014, the district proposes the replacement of 17 buses at a cost of $125,000 per bus.



Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.