School Will Weather Economic Storm…For Now

Cuts in education funding by Governor Mitch Daniels has prompted the Brownstown Central School Board to consider closing Freetown Elementary and the Seymour Community School Board to look at cutting staff through offering early retirement.
Will the Crothersville School system have to consider cuts to staff or curriculum or even closing?
According to local school superintendent Dr. Terry Goodin, there will be no cuts to education, staff or facilities at Crothersville through the 2010-2011 school year.
“The governor’s cuts meant we lost $150,000 in funding this year,” said Goodin. “And that is a permanent cut that won’t be coming back, the governor’s office has said.”
However, losing that state revenue will be offset local money in reserve.
“This and the past several school boards have been frugal with general fund money and we have been fortunate to have built a surplus to see us through times just like we are going through,” said Goodin. “We will use some of that money in reserve—money that we have saved—to keep educational programs, staff and our school in operation at least through the end of the 2011 school year.”
Goodin said that his comments should not be construed that the school has only two years left. State funding estimates only extend through the end of the 2011 school year.
Several years ago the local school represented about 80% of the total property tax bill in Crothersville and Vernon Township. The school general fund, from which salaries, benefits and overhead like heating and cooling, represented about a 25% of each taxpayer’s bill.
More recently, the state of Indiana, in response to an outcry that property taxes are too high and must be cut, took over public schools general fund and removed it from property tax base.
“What that did was change the way we pay for education of children in public schools,” said Goodin. “Rather than have a stable source of local revenue from property taxes, now our education system is funded by state revenue from income taxes, sales taxes and excise taxes.”
And those three tax sources have been diminishing during the current down-turned economy.
Just last week, the Governor’s office announced for the fourth consecutive time that revenue forecasts have failed to meet the state’s experts’ predictions.
Goodin said that education funding from income, sales and excise taxes depends on one thing. “Jobs. Jobs produce income taxes. Jobs provide spending for purchases which provide sales and excise taxes. While the experts say that the economy is rebounding, until we get jobs back, the state’s funding for education—and all of the other services the state provides from those tax sources—will suffer,” he said. “Until people get back to work there will continue to be tough times.”
“When the state took over funding schools general funds, the governor made a promise that schools would not be cut when the state took over that funding responsibility,” said Goodin. “Now he is blaming the economy for the cuts when the state is sitting on a $1.5 billion reserve.”
Some people refer to that state reserve, not unlike the reserve built up by the local school board, as a rainy day fund.
“The governor just doesn’t believe it’s raining,” said the superintendent.
The Crothersville Community School superintendent is in a unique position. In addition to being the CEO of the local school he also is the state representative from this district and sits on the House Ways & Means committee—the group through whom all House spending bills must be approved.
“Working at the Statehouse I have picked up on a definite attitude of contempt for public education coming from the Governor’s office,” the superintendent said. “Everyone needs to understand that cuts in educational funding doesn’t harm adults; it harms the children.”