County Council growing more familiar with school budget process
In a gathering that was as much meet-and-greet as it was budget hearing, the Putnam County Council and Greencastle Community School Board met jointly Friday morning.
It was the first meeting of the two boards cast together by a new state law requiring appointed school boards to have their budgets reviewed by an elected body.
As such, the brief morning meeting featured more questions between officials than it did questions from the public.
Greencastle Superintendent Dr. Lori Richmond explained to the county council that although the advertised budget and tax rates are higher than those of the current year, the numbers will come down upon review by the state.
"Tax rates will be approximately the same," Richmond said, "no big increases."
In the capital projects fund, for example, the 2012 tax levy is slightly more than $2 million, but the estimated funds to be raised for 2013 are nearly $3.2 million.
When councilman Larry Parker questioned the number, both Richmond and school treasurer Pat Green assured him budgeting high is simply part of the game in dealing with the State of Indiana.
As advertised in the Banner Graphic, the 2013 budget for Greencastle Community School Corporation is $21,887,897, of which $9.3 million would be raised through local property taxes.
The 2012 tax levy, however, is shy of $6.9 million, and the final 2013 level will likely land in the same neighborhood.
The county council also had questions for school officials about the loss of students in the corporation. Early year figures have GCSC down 62.5 students from last year's official count.
While the school's general fund is administered directly by the state and not part of the current review, councilmen asked Richmond how the school would address the loss in funding associated with the loss of students.
The superintendent said the drop in funding will not come until the beginning of the year, but school officials are already planning for it.
"Those cuts are going to be real," Richmond said. "They're probably going to be in the neighborhood of $350,000. The board and I have already begun to work on those."
The meeting, along with some research by Council President Darrell Thomas, seemed to put the councilmen more at ease with their new duty, which is simply another budget on an already full schedule.
"The whole process has been a real concern for me," Thomas said. "Over the last four days, I've talked to seven of my counterparts from around the state and I've essentially been told, 'Chill out.'"
School Board President Mike Dean expressed his appreciation for the council's concern in its new duty.
"I'd like to say thank you all for what you've done," Dean said. "I know you didn't ask for this."
With the public hearing complete and the budget turned over to the county, the council will officially review it as part of the Sept. 10 and 11 budget hearings.