BCSC budget going up, but taxes are not

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s debt service fund will grow next year, but school-related tax rates likely will stay the same or even decline.

That’s the report Vaughn Sylva, assistant superintendent for financial services, gave to the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board before it adopted the 2016 budget Monday.

“We’re really thrilled that, in spite of the fact that we have a larger debt payment we have to make, we can still do that without raising taxes,” Sylva told the board at its Sept. 14 meeting, when he presented the budget for a public hearing.

Due to three new bonds added to the district’s 2016 budget, the BCSC debt service fund will grow to $9.3 million — a 21.6 percent increase — which contributed to a 2.6 percent overall growth for the 2016 budget.

That normally would lead to an increase in the tax rate, but a projected 2 percent increase in assessed values could cause tax rates to decline.

The district’s new bonds include:

$417,108 for technology, to be paid off by 2019.

$120,188 for renovations to Southside and Rockcreek elementary schools, to be paid off by 2030.

$1,130,000 for renovations to Columbus Signature Academy — Lincoln campus, which initially was borrowed in 2003 and is now up for repayment by 2018.

Additionally, BCSC brought in more in excise and property taxes in 2014 than anticipated, Sylva said.

“Schools have to hold that money aside,” Sylva said. “All other entities, save the county governments, are allowed to keep that and spend it. We have to hold it for purposes of reducing taxes.”

The money was placed in a levy excess fund and will be used as additional revenue for the Department of Local Government Finance in 2016.

“That works out to be totally to the benefit of the taxpayers,” Sylva said.

The district itself will see a benefit in its general fund, where the 2016 revenues will grow by 1.8 percent to $72.2 million.

The increase comes from an additional 30 students enrolled in the district, as of September counts. If school enrollment increases, state funding for the district also increases.

General fund expenditures also are expected to increase to $71.9 million in 2016, Sylva said, largely due to the 2.5 and 2 percent pay increases for all BCSC employees over the next two school years.

However, the retirement of 39 teachers in May enabled the district to offset much of the cost of those raises, which will likely lead to an unexpected surplus of $1 million at the end of 2015.

At the end of 2016, Sylva predicts, the district will have a nearly $1.4 million surplus, with a rainy day fund of $6 million at the end of 2015.

“We’re in the healthiest position we’ve been in for a number of years,” Sylva said.

The six members present at Monday’s board meeting passed the budget unanimously.

Board president Robert Abrams had a schedule conflict and did not attend the meeting.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.