Enrollment drop could tighten school budget

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — A drop in enrollment at Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools means the board and Superintendent Tracy Lorey will keep a close eye on spending during the 2015 fiscal year.

Lorey said she isn’t sure yet how many students were lost this year or why — the state’s annual student count day, which determines how much funding is provided for each corporation, won’t be until mid-September — but she estimates a deficit of 55 to 60 kids has accumulated over the past two years.

“We’ve got smaller kindergarten classes coming in as opposed to larger graduating classes going out,” Lorey explained. “Certainly where our general fund is concerned, we’re really cognizant of the money that follows each student when they enroll.”

Despite the decline in student population, Lorey is confident about the financial state of the corporation. She is hopeful that revenue from property tax dollars and the state funding formula will remain steady to allow the board to continue with renovations to the existing buildings. Over the summer, Jasper High School received an updated kitchen and a new roof over the classroom wing. The elementary schools got fresh carpet and coats of paint, and a new access road was constructed at Ireland Elementary School.

Soon, the schools will need some heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements and more roof replacements.

“We will continue to try to chip away at some of the physical needs of our facilities and properties. The Stenftenagel Group has done a great job of helping us prioritize what those needs are,” Lorey said, referring to the Jasper company which consults with the school corporation on building maintenance.

The 2015 budget, totaling $36,824,188, was figured using an assessed value estimate of $900 million, the same as in 2014. The tax levy is advertised at $1.60 per $100 assessed valuation, but Lorey believes the final approved rate will be similar to the $1.08 the state approved for this year’s budget.

The overall corporation budget is broken into six primary categories. Each has its own rules and stipulations on collection and spending set by the state. The board advertised the total estimated amounts of money to be collected for 2015 as:

  • General fund: $18,743,899, which is provided by the state based on student enrollment. The general fund pays for salaries and benefits of employees, as well as general school budgetary needs including utilities and property casualty insurance.
  • Capital projects: $5,597,095, to pay for building renovations and maintenance of buildings, technology and equipment.
  • Transportation fund: $2,193,000, to pay for student transportation, fuel and maintenance of equipment.
  • Debt service fund: $6,641,861, to make payments on borrowed money.
  • Pension bond fund: $1,244,333, to pay for long-term teacher retirement.
  • Bus replacement fund: $554,000, used to replace bus equipment and pay some of the contracted bus services not covered in the transportation fund.

A public hearing to consider the proposed budget will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the central office, at 1520 St. Charles St. The board plans to adopt the budget Monday, Sept. 22, and forward it to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for review and final approval.

Contact Claire Moorman at cmoorman@dcherald.com.

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