Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

August 14, 2011

Property tax caps mean less maintenance money

Eastern approves advertising its 2012 budget.

Greentown — Property tax caps mean less money to maintain buildings for Indiana’s schools.

Eastern Superintendent Tracy Caddell said his corporation’s capital project fund is its “most distressed fund,” with little money available to maintain buildings.

Caddell and corporation treasurer Teresa Vester presented the proposed 2012 budget to school board members during Tuesday’s meeting. The general fund money mostly comes from the state, based on enrollment, Vester said. However, the capital projects fund, debt service fund, pension debt fund, transportation operations and bus replacement funds are all funded through property taxes.

The debt service and pension debt funds don’t have room for reductions, so the capital projects fund takes the biggest hit if property owners hit the maximum tax rate they can pay based on the assessed value of the home. Anything over that amount is lost by the local taxing units, Caddell said.

The capital projects fund pays for building maintenance, classroom equipment and technology costs, and can be used to supplement costs for utilities. Caddell said after technology and other costs are taken out of capital projects, there is about $219,000 left for building maintenance.

“There’s not enough there to maintain the buildings. The property tax caps have severely impacted capital projects,” he said. Caddell said with the country’s economic troubles, assessed valuations of homes have decreased, which then lowers the property tax cap.

There is no way under current state law to recoup any of the losses, he said. He’s written letters to area legislators, he said, “not that it will do any good in this political climate.”

The board approved advertising the corporation’s 2012 budget of $8,987,369 in the general fund, $2,443,516 in debt service, $1,116,002 in capital projects, $95,925 in pension bond debt, $781,739 in transportation operations and $277,667 in bus replacement. Caddell said property tax funds are advertised high, so if the assessed valuation comes in lower than anticipated, the corporation will still get the money it needs in those funds.

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