Community meetings to provide referendum info


FERDINAND — Taxpayers within the Southeast Dubois County School Corporation will soon have the opportunity to ask questions and learn about the property tax referendum that will appear on the November ballot.

At its board meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Jamie Pund announced the dates of two community meetings where school administrators will offer information about the need for the referendum and how the corporation plans to spend the additional funds. Attendees will also have an opportunity to ask questions.

The first meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, at the St. Anthony Community Center, 4665 S. Cross St. The other is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the Ferdinand Community Center, 1710 Community Dr.

“We wanted to host some meetings for our community members to come in and hear some information about the referendum question that will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot,” Pund said. “And to give them the opportunity to ask questions.”

Attendees are asked to wear masks and social distancing guidelines will be followed.

The school board voted to place an operating tax referendum on the ballot in June following a financial feasibility study by Brookston-based Administrator Assistance. The study found that to maintain the level of education the community expects in the face of falling enrollment, the school corporation would need to find ways to increase funding beyond what the state awards in tuition support — which is awarded according to enrollment —and what is currently collected in property taxes. Property tax referendums provide schools a pathway to secure those additional funds.

If it passes, the referendum will allow the corporation to levy up to an additional 19 cents per $100 of assessed value each year for eight years — 2021 to 2028. The corporation can levy less than 19 cents if the full amount is not needed. For the median home in Dubois County, the increase works out to at most $145.34 annually (assuming tax credits have been applied), according to Herald archives.

The additional funding will be used for academic and education-related programs, maintaining current class sizes, recruitment and retention of staff, and school safety and mental health resources, the question says.

The school corporation has been in deficit spending for several years due to falling enrollment and changes to school funding at the state level that began in 2009. State tuition funds the education fund, which pays for expenses related to education, including teacher salaries and benefits, and is awarded on a per student basis with additional funds given through a complexity grant that takes into account special needs, such as disabilities and poverty, as well as high academic achievement at the high school level.

In the last five years, enrollment at Southeast Dubois has declined by 29 students, according to the findings from the feasibility study. That works out to a revenue loss of about $165,000 per year.

Southeast Dubois also doesn’t have a lot of students with special needs or below the poverty line, which means the corporation receives less dollars per student than schools with higher numbers of students in those categories. Those factors combined with falling enrollment make Southeast Dubois one of the lowest-funded school corporations per student in the state and the lowest funded in Dubois County, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

So far, Pund said, she’s not heard a lot of feedback from the community regarding the referendum. She attributes that to COVID-19 and the focus on reopening schools after the emergency closure in March. The two community meetings are a way to get conversations flowing and to get information out to voters before Election Day.

The board also

• Held the public hearing on the 2021 budget, capital projects plan and bus replacement plan. There were no public comments.

• Approved a special board meeting for 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, to approve the 2021 budget, capital projects plan and bus replacement plan.

• Approved the following resignations: custodians Rick Kippenbrock and Barb Wright; instructional assistant Margie Andry; and sixth grade cheer sponsor Lisa Huff.

• Approved the following appointments: temporary instructional assistant Taylor Small and instructional assistant Philip Hayden at Ferdinand Elementary; and long-term substitute teacher David Lusk and junior high student council co-sponsors Melissa Haas and Nettie Boeglin at Forest Park Junior-Senior High School.

• Approved the teacher appreciation grant policy that dictates how the corporation spends grant funding awarded from the state for teachers rated effective and highly effective on evaluations.

• Approved the Forest Park chorus and theater department Butter Braid fundraiser.

• Approved the following donations: $4,000 from the Fair-Weather Indoor Golf facility for the boys and girls golf teams; 100 student desks from Kimball; $138 from the Ferdinand American Legion for at-risk students; $5,872.50 from the Athletic Booster Club for various athletic needs; and $250 from Kurt and Tara Uebelhor for the football program.

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