The Vigo County School Board tonight will conduct a hearing on the school district’s estimated 2020 budget, which is $162.6 million, according to the notice on the Indiana Gateway government finance website.

The hearing is at 6 p.m. in the administration building, 686 Wabash Ave.

The budget estimate includes a $106 million education fund; $44.3 million operations fund; $10.7 million debt service fund; and $1.6 million rainy day fund.

Those figures, as they appear on Gateway, subtract an estimated $6.6 million that cannot be collected due to property tax caps.

As occurs every year, budgets are advertised high to protect levies and tax rates.

For example, last year’s proposed 2019 budget was $162.3 million, while the approved 2019 budget was $152.4 million.

Last year’s advertised tax rate for 2019 was $1.11 per $100 assessed value, and the final approved rate was 75 cents per $100 assessed value.

“As always, there are uncertainties regarding assessed value and tax collections, so this budget is high so we can keep our tax rate steady,” something that occurs each year in the budget process, Bill Riley, VCSC director of communications, stated on Sept. 23.

As part of the budget process, the district anticipates a decline in the county’s assessed value. “The lower assessed value artificially inflates the presented tax rates, but it protects us in case of a dramatic drop in [the county’s] assessed value,” Bruce Perry, chief financial officer, explained at the Sept. 23 board meeting.

He added, “If you don’t factor that in and advertise a high enough rate, you are only allowed what you advertise. So we have to account for a possible decrease.”

From 2018 to 2019, the school tax rate dropped from 80 cents to 75 cents per $100 assessed value because the county’s assessed value increased.

“Our goal is to maintain a flat tax rate as close to 75 cents per $100 assessed value as possible,” Perry said.

The education fund is state funded, while operations is funded through local property taxes, with some subsidy from the education fund. The operations fund includes what used to be capital projects, bus transportation and bus replacement funds. Last year was the first year for the changes.

The operations levy for 2020 cannot exceed $22.6 million, Perry said.

Budget adoption will take place Oct. 21. After that, the Department of Local Government Finance will review, adjust and give its approval to the budget.

The board also must adopt a three-year capital projects plan and five-year bus replacement plan, which can be found on the district’s website at vigoschools.org. The capital projects plan lists anticipated expenditures for each building.

The budget calls for the replacement of 17 buses next year not to exceed $1,875,000. The debt service budget includes a final payment on the aquatic center.

The proposed budget does not reflect anticipated budget cuts that will be necessary because of the district’s declining cash balance; the cuts will be announced prior to the Nov. 5 election, when an operating referendum is on the ballot. The district is still seeking citizen input through community meetings.

Teacher contract talks also are pending.

Regular meeting

After the budget hearing, the board will conduct its regular meeting, which will include two presentations, one of them by Tom McGregor, a member of the Terre Haute Noon Optimists, and another by Kristin Craig, president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, who will share information on the community plan.

Under action items, the board will be asked to approve OneAmerica as the provider for basic life and long term disability insurance, effective Nov. 1. It would replace Sun Life Financial.

The bond steering committee will present a report providing an update on summer projects.

Superintendent Rob Haworth will report on an education/business roundtable initiative.

The board also will meet at 5 p.m. Monday in the first floor conference room for ongoing discussion related to the strategic plan. The focus will be on human resources.

The next school board meeting is Oct. 21.

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

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