Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 23, 2013

Local districts still struggling

Area schools may experience cuts under new funding formula.

By Jessie Hellmann
For the Kokomo Tribune

— While there may be more money alloted for K-12 education in the budget passed through the General Assembly last month, many school districts in the area won’t see high cash bumps due to changes in the funding formulas.

The General Assembly tried to structure the formula so as to give more money to districts which experienced increased enrollment and less money to districts with declining enrollment. However, for some corporations in the area, the opposite is true.

For instance, Taylor Community School Corporation is estimated to have a 2.7 percent decrease in enrollment for 2014, the district would still receive a 1.3 percent funding increase — $89 per student. In 2015, Taylor is projected to suffer a 0.2 percent decrease in enrollment, but is projected to receive a funding bump of 0.3 percent per student. Taylor is expected to receive a 1.4 percent decrease in its overall general appropriations from the state in 2014, and a 0.2 percent increase in its general state appropriations in 2015.

Taylor Community School Corporation Superintendent John Magers said tying funding to increasing enrollment rates is detrimental to school districts.

“I think that in a very real sense, it’s detrimental to schools that have decreasing enrollment because there is inadequate funding for those schools in general,” Magers said.

But, he said, any increase in funding Taylor receives from the state would be welcomed.

“Overall, any increase in funding would be appreciated. In our particular case, we will have a slight decrease in funding next year,” Magers said.

He said he is disappointed with the 3 percent increase for K-12 education in the state budget passed in late April.

“I’m very disappointed with the state and lack of funding that they are pushing toward all schools in Indiana,” he said. “With more money going into vouchers and charter schools, public schools are sitting here with less and less revenue.”

Tri-Central Community Schools is another district in the area that, despite projected declining enrollment for 2014 and 2015, will see a projected funding bump of 1.1 percent per student in 2014, and 0.5 percent per student in 2015. The school district is projected to receive a 0.3 percent funding increase overall to the budget in 2014, and no increase at all for 2015.

Interim Superintendent of Tri-Central Community Schools Robert Boyd said because of the small 0.3 percent increase to the general fund revenue from the state, cuts may have to be made.

“It’s just your expenses move ahead with inflation, and when the revenue doesn’t move with that, obviously cuts have to be made,” Boyd said.

He said the district just went through a procedure of cutting approximately $600 thousand from the current budget to make ends meet.

“You don’t feel good about [cuts] obviously, because you have an obligation to the students to provide the best education that you can, and you just have so much to work with, and you just have to do the best that you can,” Boyd said.

In some instances, what the General Assembly intended to do with increasing funding for increasing enrollment, worked.

The Eastern Howard School Corporation expects to see a 0.4 percent increase in funding per student for 2014 and a 0.1 percent funding per student increase in 2015. The increase, in dollar amount, would go up $4 to $6,002 per student for 2015.

Overall, Eastern is expected to receive a 2.3 percent increase in its general revenue from the state in 2014 and a 0.4 increase in 2015.

After the $300 million cut in K-12 funding in the last budget cycle, Eastern Community School Corporation is still feeling the hit from it.

Tracy Caddell, superintendent of Eastern Community School Corporation, said he is grateful for the funding increase from the General Assembly, but it isn’t enough.

“I don’t believe the funding is adequate for K – 12 education,” Caddell said.

He said programs like special education and preschool are underfunded.

“It’s going to be a difficult couple of years for school for funding,” Caddell said. “I still appreciate getting something, and I know the General Assembly worked to give schools some dollars, which was different from the last few years.”

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