On May 5, in addition to deciding political candidates in the Primary Election, Vernon Township voters will be asked to approve additional funding for Crothersville Community Schools.
The School Board has approved by a 4-0 vote placing a referendum on the spring ballot asking voters for their approval to increase the local school tax rate by 63¢ with funds dedicated to teacher salaries.
That would mean property assessed at $100,000 would pay about $52 a month or $630 a year to the school for salaries.
For the past several years the local school has been transferring money from the education fund to the operations fund in order to meet overhead costs.
Schools have three funds from which to pay for educational expenses.
The education fund is dedicated to paying for teacher salaries and benefits and some school programming. The two principals’ salaries also come out of that fund. No local property tax dollars go to the fund, as it is funded by the state based on student enrollment.
The operations fund includes expenses related to paying bills, bus costs and other costs of operating the school. Such as water & sewer, gas, and electric utility bills. Central administration building staff, custodians, maintenance personnel and some aides also are paid from the fund. The fund is based on the corporation’s assessed value.
The debt service fund is used for paying school mortgage debt.
“Our assessed value is not high enough to be able to generate enough funds to continue to operate the school corporation, so we have to transfer dollars out of the education fund to be able to operate the operations fund,” Crothersville community School Superintendent Dr. Terry Goodin said.
He said the township wide current tax rate for the school is $1.10. An $820,000 increase to the tax rate will be 63 cents, bumping it up to $1.73.
Residents can visit one of the state financial websites gateway.ifionline.org/public/taxpayer, click on “Tax Bill Estimator” and receive an estimate of their property taxes based on assessed value and applicable deductions. To determine the tax increase for Vernon Township, take the net assessed value of your home after deductions and multiply it by 0.0063.
For a person with a home assessed at $90,000 deducting a homestead and supplemental homestead deductions, their current tax bill would be $537 for 2019. With the referendum, the superintendent said that example would pay an extra $184.28 for a year, or $15.35 a month. Those 65 and older and disabled veterans should have other deductions to lower those numbers.
Goodin said the tax rate cannot exceed 63 cents, and as the assessed value grows, the rate could drop.
The tax rate would be applied to all forms of assessable property in the township, residential, farm, commercial and industrial.
On the primary election ballot in 2020, Vernon Township voters will select yes or no when asked if they agree to help fund the school corporation to move forward.
If the referendum passes, Goodin said that money can only go into the operations fund.
“A referendum is the only opportunity at this point because we know the state of Indiana is not going to fund us. We know that,” he said. “We’ve been through a decade of this funding formula that they’ve got, and it has only gotten worse.”
In the last two years, he said eight teachers have left for other school corporations that offer better pay.
Other Schools Systems Are In The Same Boat
Crothersville is not alone in placing funding referendums on the ballot. Statewide so far about eight other systems— small school and some large ones— will ask their voters to decide on increasing their funding. Nearby Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (Columbus) is considering asking their residents to approve a $9.3 million tax increase or an increase of just under 20¢ per $100.
Several other schools will have referendums in May to ask their school corporation constituents to approve a tax increase.
Last month Scott County School District 1 voters approved a referendum to increase property taxes to build a $20-million elementary school. Austin and Jennings Township voters approved increasing property taxes about 35¢ for a total rate of about $1.15 to pay for the construction.
In another question put to voters in May, West Clark Community School Corporation will let voters decide if the larger Silver Creek School System should be separated from the two smaller Borden and Henryville School Systems. Funding inequities have been cited as the reason for considering the ‘divorce’.
“I’m going to be very honest. If we don’t pass this referendum, it’s going to place our school corporation in jeopardy as we go down the road being able to stay open,” Goodin said.
“As we move forward, if we’re going to continue to be the best school, you have to fund that. You’ve got to try to figure out ways to make sure you keep that going,” Goodin said.
“Basically, the problem is the state of Indiana has cut funding to our school corporation over $1 million that has compounded, so since 2011, we’ve lost over $1 million times eight years … around $8 million we’ve lost in funding,” Goodin said.
How Did We Get To This?
An old newspaper cartoon strip “Pogo” maybe sums up the situation the best. The lead character quips, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Consider the following:
•For decades residents have complained about property taxes. Schools have long been the largest consumer of property tax dollars. As a result, the legislature changed not only the school funding formula but also decreased and changed manner in which schools can raise or receive money.
•Pupil funding now follows the student where ever they attend classes whether it be a public, parochial or charter school. Small schools that have always struggled, now face lesser funding because of decreasing enrollment.
•During the Gov. Mitch Daniels the legislature and the voters approved a constitutional amendment to place a cap on property taxes. Schools as well as cities and towns, counties, townships, libraries all have decreased funding because of those property tax caps.
•Currently the state of Indiana has over $2-billion in reserves.