05/27/11 An appeal filed earlier this year by the United-North School Corporation against the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) has been dismissed after attorney’s representing both parties were able to come to a mutual agreement. Earlier this year, Union-North’s attorney from Barnes and Thornburg petitioned the tax court claiming the adjustments to the 2011 budget were contrary to the DLGF’s statutory obligation to ensure the corporation has sufficient levies and appropriations to pay its debt service obligations.
In mid-April, Indiana Tax Court Judge Martha Blood Wentworth ordered the opposing sides to file status reports or a proposed case management plan on the matter. On May 23, a joint stipulation of dismissal was entered into the court docket. All that remains is for the judge to sign off on the plan.
The DLGF is the overseeing agency that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that property tax assessments and local government budgeting fall with Indiana law. When the agency reviewed the projected revenues from the tax base, they determined that they were insufficient to fund the 2011 budget that had been adopted.
Two major considerations hitting the school corporation hard were adjustments made by the DLGF to increase temporary loan obligations from zero to almost $1.25 million while, at the same time, decreasing the corporation’s estimated expenditure from the debt service fund by more than $435,000.
The DLGF had cut the 2011 budget for the school corporation by some $1.8 million. The budget was already falling $33,000 short of what had been requested in 2010. When $1.4 million in cuts hit the school, Dr. Barker requested that the board approve trimming 20 positions from the teaching staff and non-certified employees. Additional cuts included, but were certainly not limited to, offering only half-day kindergarten classes.
Administrators and school board members of the Union-North may now be able to turn their attention to setting goals and delving into 1:1 learning, according to Superintendent Dr. Terry Barker. Barker said, “We were wondering how this thing was going to turn out.” He added, “After years of a deficit, Union-North is at a point where we are truly living within our budget.” At this point, the corporation will be allowed to move money into a rainy day fund according to Barker.
Barker is determined to keep the corporation’s finances in order; however, there are some adjustments on the horizon. Included in the agenda for the school board meeting scheduled for May 26 was the consideration of reinstatement of full-day kindergarten. Barker said, “The kindergarten program will be based upon enrollment. He said classes may be a little larger. “We will have to see how many returning families we have.” The state now allows patrons of one district to apply for acceptance in another district. Barker said there were some families that chose that option last year and moved their children to other corporations.
Carol Anders Correspondent