Letter to the Editor

School funding issues a major concern

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

To the Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss Putnam County's property tax increases in simple English so those who never graduated from high school can understand where the problems started, and some available assistance along with where they should be complaining rather than barking up threes (at schools) which have been fighting to stay alive with truly limited funding.

When the state of Indiana found itself in a financial bind several years ago, it began trying to find ways to cut expenses. The first one on the chopping block was the public schools of Indiana. They quickly began decreasing their funding of Indiana schools and shifting those costs to the property tax rolls of each corporation. They delayed payments to schools and then made new requirements in which a school could have no unfunded liabilities whereby each school had to develop pension bonds to cover all retirement benefits earned by current employees. The transportation fund also had been supported by the state and that too has been shifted to property taxes. Now with reassessments many of you have lost your homestead credit without your knowledge. And unless you watch your assessment very closely there have been many errors which have affected us all.

I applaud the farmers of Putnam County who understand the problems with our property tax system and have been working with the state legislators for several years to eliminate property taxes.

We currently have one option being look at by the county council which can reduce our county property taxes by over five million dollars with option B of the local option tax. This is a dollar for dollar shift of property tax dollars to a county income tax. If we could shift additional property tax dollars needed to an increase in sales tax not only will Indiana residents help share the load but everyone passing through and purchasing anything will support the sales tax income. Illegal immigrants, out of state visitors, meth dealers who purchase their supplies will all help eliminate the need for property taxes. Even criminals make purchases.

Before I discuss the consolidation idea, I would like to commend all the local school corporations for their efforts to operate on tight budgets and still provide quality education to the students of Putnam County. These students are the same ones who will be making your hamburgers at McDonald's, caring for you in the area retirement facilities, raising the food, and running this county in years to come. We must continue to provide the best education possible, including computer training, vocational training, along with supporting Ivy Tech and other area education opportunities.

Consolidation in Putnam County sounds like an answer but if you look at the true numbers associated with similar size corporations the music will quickly fade away. If Putnam County consolidated all four schools we would have corporation of over 6,700 students. This would rank as approximately the 34th largest school corporation in Indiana out of 293 schools. Brownsburg is a neighboring school with an enrollment of 6,959 students in 2006. They currently employ 21 corporation office certified office certified staff. Putnam County schools currently have nine in the four schools combined. Brownsburg Supt. makes $133,000 which is around $25,000 more than Putnam County's highest paid Supt. Brownsburg also employs two assistant superintendents with salaries between $112,000 and $115,000. Other positions include a budget director, several curriculum directors, technology staff, publicity and communications director, etc. Putnam County schools indebtedness is less than $70 million while Brownsburg is at $175 million. Closing any school will bring additional building costs, larger class sizes, and still require the same space, but more personnel than we use today.

Please, use this information to ask the county council and the state legislators for the elimination of property taxes and any other means to reduce the property taxes in Indiana. It can be done and many states in the U.S. have done it successfully.

This information is readily available and a matter of public record. Please do you're research and plan beyond your line of sight. As I have stated many times before, "It takes a community to raise a child, and a community must have a school to survive."

The child of today is the leader of tomorrow.

Steve Bunten,