Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 14, 2011

Property tax caps mean less maintenance money

Eastern approves advertising its 2012 budget.

By Danielle Rush
Tribune staff writer

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.

Vester said the proposed tax rate to be advertised is $2.0577 per $100 of assessed valuation, and she projects the rate will come in about $1.8291 per $100, or about .2 cents more per $100 than the 2011 rate.

The board also approved a contract with the Wabash Valley Educational Center for a dietitian, to be shared with seven other school corporations. Caddell said the dietitian will help Eastern be in compliance with new federal nutrition standards. Eastern will pay $3,550 for the service, which board member Paul Hubbard said amounts to approximately $3 per student per year. Board President Matt Adams commented it was less per semester than hiring a dietitian as a school employee.

The board also approved transfer tuition students enrolling, and gave principals permission to accept others who meet school guidelines until the official count day, which determines the school’s funding based on enrollment. Caddell said Eastern has accepted 47 transfer tuition students, and principals are still receiving phone calls from parents interested in enrolling their children.

• Danielle Rush is the Kokomo Tribune education reporter. She can be reached at 765-454-8585 or danielle.rush@kokomotribune.com.