Indiana’s recent change in how school funding is calculated at the state level has caused more local backlash, as the Oregon-Davis School Corporation discussed options Monday night to prepare financially for the upcoming school years.
Superintendent Steven Disney told WKVI that schools were previously funded in a large part by the state while the general fund tax levy for Oregon-Davis covered roughly one-third of the budget, allowing the state to cover the remainder. However, new legislation has switched all school funding to the state, eliminating the local tax levy. On top of that, recent changes in funding formulas at the state level have reduced the amount of funding given to schools, forcing Oregon-Davis to make some tough decisions.
“Since the state has taken over, Oregon-Davis’s funding and general fund revenues has been cut, cut, and cut. And specifically, small schools like Culver, like Oregon-Davis, like South Central, like Argos, are receiving about a 10% cut, where districts like Plymouth and Knox this year are at about even or about a 1-2% increase, so small schools have been cut,” said Disney.
Toward the beginning of 2010, Oregon-Davis had an annual budget of $4.6 million. In January 2011, the corporation was informed that they would be receiving roughly a 5% reduction in funding from the state, so they knew they would have to tighten their belts for the upcoming year. However, in August, the corporation received a letter from the state informing them that they would receive $4.19 million in general funds, then in October, they were told it would be again reduced to $3.982 million. Enrollment for the school has also been declining due in part to the economic decline, further lessening the budget.
As a result, Oregon-Davis made several cuts in staffing to accommodate the tighter budget. Eight teaching positions have been eliminated, along with one administrative position and one and a half support positions over the last two years for a total expense cut of at least $620,000.
Unfortunately, these cuts are not enough to solve the problem in the long run. Three options were presented to the audience present at the meeting: do nothing and continue the status quo, consolidate the district with a nearby school, or add a local general fund referendum to the taxes.
A local general fund referendum would add up to $0.1911 on property taxes. For a home valued at $75,000, this would come out to about a $31.53 increase in property taxes overall. For acreage, it would add an estimated $2.87 per acre.
Overall, the audience supported the option of adding a general fund referendum. If the school board decides to go ahead with pursuing the referendum, they have until Dec. 31 to get the topic on the upcoming ballot. Taxpayers would vote in the Spring on whether or not to allow the school to add the referendum, and if passed, it would go into effect in 2013 for a period of seven years. The $0.1911 increase in taxes would add about $400,000 to the school’s budget, which is the estimated shortfall for the upcoming years’ budgets.