Flat Rock-Hawcreek holds line on spending

HOPE — Spending within the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corporation, as well as property tax rates in the Hope area, are expected to go down next year.

With election of a new governor on next week, as well as changes in the makeup of the state legislature, which decides on statewide education spending, local school board members took a cautious approach and voted to make slight reductions in next year’s spending, business manager Jeff Cleland said.

The school board voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve six funds that make up next year’s spending plan. The combined total of $8,551,901 is $21,300 less than this year’s amount, Cleland said. That’s a 0.25 percent reduction.

Several of the funds will increase, however.

About $24,600 more will be spent in 2017 to make payments on a general obligation fund, as well as low-interest loans for new technology, the business manager said.

However, an $80,000 decrease in general operation expenses will more than offset the increase in the debt service fund, Cleland said.

Looking ahead, enrollment has increased by about 18 students this year, he said. That follows two straight school years of enrollment losses.

With a connection between enrollment and state funding, that could result in increased funding from the state in the near future, Cleland said.

“We’ve been under the gun and in a difficult spot for funding for several years,” Cleland said. “This year, we are seeing a bit of a turnaround.”

While the corporation has placed an additional $35,217 more into its capital projects fund, the business manager said he anticipates that considerably less will actually be spent.

An $11,000 increase in the bus replacement fund reflects the recent acquisition of two 14-passenger mini-buses used for field trips and special events, he said.

Although the school board is advertising a tax rate of $1.4975 per $100 of assessed valuation, administrators anticipate the final tax rate will be set lower than this year’s $1.2839 by state regulators in January or February, Cleland said.

“We adopt everything high, and that gives the Department of Local Government Finance room to lower it,” Cleland said.

The tax rate adopted a year ago was about a dime higher than what was adopted Tuesday.

Although the value of farmland has remained stable, the assessed valuation of many other properties — especially those along lakefronts such as Schaefer Lake in the school district — has gone up sharply throughout Bartholomew County in recent years, the business manager said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.