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School board budget review will fall to County or City council

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

With county and city budget reviews a little over a month away, the question over who will have to review the Greencastle Community Schools budget remains open.

Under a law passed this spring by the Indiana General Assembly, the Greencastle Schools budget must be approved by a publicly elected body, beyond the approval of the appointed school board.

Across the state, the new law largely affects other types of public entities with appointed boards, such as libraries. However, it also has the dozen or so appointed school boards in the state scrambling to find who is in charge of their budget review.

For Greencastle Schools, the reviewing authority will either be the Greencastle City Council or the Putnam County Council.

City officials originally assumed the task would fall to them, Greencastle Schools were founded by the city in the 1800s.

However, the school corporation does not simply represent the city, as many students -- and three of five school board representatives -- are drawn from Greencastle Township and Madison Township.

As such, the Putnam County Council has also prepared itself for the possibility of reviewing the school budget.

The question came up at last week's school board meeting, with City Council President Adam Cohen and others asking why the school board was trying to avoid having the city council review the budget.

School board members and school attorney Robert Rund insisted, however, that the corporation is not trying to avoid city council review. Instead, Rund is exploring all options, trying to make sure the school does what is required by state law.

"I was concerned that the budget be approved by the right board," Rund said at the time, "whether it be the city or the county council."

There were even questions raised as to whether the school board had hired Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller to look into the issue. Again, school officials insisted they have not hired any outside counsel.

"I think this has gotten blown out of proportion," board member Mike White said. "There's no animosity. We're not saying we don't want the city doing this."

Having researched the subject both locally and in Indianapolis, Rund told the Banner Graphic he believes the key lies in the 1964 reorganization plan under which the school corporation is still organized.

That document set up the current corporation as a consolidation of Greencastle Consolidated Schools and Madison Township Schools.

Prior to the reorganization, schools had not operated in Madison Township for several years, but the corporation continued to exist as the entity that bused students to Greencastle schools.

Rund said he believes the reorganization plan, coupled with the fact that schools also once existed outside the city but within Greencastle Township, put the responsibility on the county, not the city.

"To me, it's fairly clear that it's not the city under that statute," Rund said.

He also pointed out, though, that final word will come from the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF).

Rund is planning to draft a letter to DLGF attorney Mike Duffy with his findings. After that, the ball will be in DLGF's court to make the final call.

Regardless of which direction the ruling goes, the review process is expected to be fairly minimal. The school board will retain control of its own budget, with the need for the other council -- whichever it may be -- to sign off on the final numbers.

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I'm thinking review by both City and County Council,it's all about government entities working together.....

-- Posted by kubotafan on Wed, Aug 1, 2012, at 4:49 PM

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