Schools expect to hold tax line

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is proposing a 1.2 percent increase for its 2017 budget, which is not expected to change the tax rate.

The proposed $112.6 million budget was presented Monday night to school board members during a work session at Southside Middle School. The first public hearing on the budget is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 26, also at Southside.

Vaughn Sylva, the district’s assistant superintendent for financial services, presented the budget overview:

Revenues for the general fund, used for day-to-day spending and payment of salaries and other expenses, are projected to increase from $72.2 million this year to about $72.9 million in 2017, based on an assumption that district enrollment remains unchanged when the first count is taken Friday. Indiana provides education funding for schools based on enrollment, providing a per-student amount to each school district.

General fund expenditures are projected at about $72.8 million for next year, up from $71.8 mil- lion in 2016. Sylva said the general fund balance was running almost a $1 million surplus as of January, and that could reach $1.9 million by the end of this year.

Increases included in the general fund are attributed to a negotiated 2 percent across-the-board raise for employees and adding five employees, which includes three certified staff members.

Teresa Heiny, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said the staff will be added to Southside, Mt. Healthy and Smith, elementary schools that have seen increasing enrollment.

The general fund increase also projects a 15 percent increase for the corporation’s health trust account, which supports the school district’s self-funded health plan, Sylva said.

After two years of lower health expenses in 2012 and 2013, in which the corporation built up a $9.5 million in reserves in the health trust account, health care claims increased by 3.2 percent in 2014 and grew by 12.6 percent in 2015, which lowered the reserves to $8.1 million, Sylva said.

As of July 2016, claims are nearly 21 percent higher for this year, bringing the health trust account reserve down to about $7 million.

When board members questioned why the claims had taken such a jump in a relatively short time, Sylva said there have been some large claims from cancer and diabetes treatments. And he mentioned that the number of employees having babies had increased during that time.

A number of employees have also switched from a low-deductible plan to the high-deductible plan, resulting in lower payments into the health trust for premiums, Sylva said.

In the capital projects fund, Sylva said the school corporation is increasing its maintenance budget for facilities by about $400,000 and has added about $141,000 to fund new computers and other technology.

In transportation, the initial plan was to replace 10 buses this year at a cost of $1.3 million, but the school corporation will reduce that to seven or eight buses and use that expense savings to offset money borrowed for pension debt in 2002 and 2006.

Sylva explained the state allowed school corporations to borrow money to fund pension shortfalls, but requires that repayment for that comes from somewhere else in the school budget. The school corporation has 124 buses and projects replacing 10 of those each year through 2028.

Although the school corporation does now know what the assessed valuation will be for 2017, Sylva showed board members a chart indicating the school corporation still is lagging behind since the 2008 recession affected Indiana’s economy. The assessed valuation is the value of the property being taxed to provide funding through a tax rate based on every $100 of assessed valuation.

In 2008, the assessed valuation was $4,033,458,480 and by 2011 it had dropped to $3,582,004,800. Sylva said the 2016 assessed valuation, which is what the school corporation is working with now to project for 2017, is $3,860,410,145, still not back to 2008 levels.

In addition, with the Indiana Legislature’s decision to enact property tax caps, the school corporation lost nearly $1.3 million in revenue in 2016, something Sylva said may repeat again in 2017.

Despite that, Sylva said if the assessed valuation sees a modest increase for 2017, which is as yet unknown, the school corporation’s tax rate should stay unchanged at this year’s $85.66 per $100 assessed valuation for next year.

“It’s highly likely our rate will stay flat,” he told board members.

If you go

What: Budget hearing for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

When: 7 p.m. Sept. 26

Where: Southside Elementary School, 1320 W. County Road 200S

Where to learn more: bcsc.k12.in.us

2017 budgeting trends

Changes in assessed valuation for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

2008: $4,033,458,480

2009: $3,649,245,136 (-9.5 percent)

2010: $3,683,355,783 (+0.9 percent)

2011: $3,582,004,800 (-2.8 percent)

2012: $3,605,473,387 (+0.7 percent)

2013: $3,529,862,429 (-2.1 percent)

2014: $3,697,514,361 (+4.75 percent)

2015: $3,836,711,906 (+3.76 percent)

2016: 3,860,410,145 (+0.6 percent)

BCSC property tax cap losses, by year

2012: $1,348,819

2013: $1,413,556

2014: $1,181,792

2015: $941,766

2016: $1,285,035

Health Trust reserves

2012: $8.5 million, (-0.9 percent)

2013: $9.5 million, (-14.6 percent)

2014: $9.6 million,  (+3.2 percent)

2015: $8.1 million (+12.6 percent)

2016: 7 million (+20.8 percent, as of July)

— Source: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

SHARE
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.