Source: The Corydon Democrat

Lanesville schools seek 17-cent tax levy

by Alan Stewart

January 28, 2014

By a unanimous decision at its Jan. 21 meeting, the Lanesville Community School Corp. Board of Trustees voted to place a public question on the May ballot, asking if there is support of a school tax levy of up to, but not exceeding, 17 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The reason for the levy is an anticipated shortfall of more than $240,000 in the 2014 budget.

Wording of the referendum question will be as follows: “For the next (seven) calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum pursuant to Indiana Code 20-46-1-8(a)(1), shall the Lanesville Community Schools impose a property tax rate that does not exceed $0.17 on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other property tax levies imposed by the school corporation?”

The Dept. of Local Government Finance will approve or reject the public question within 10 days of the board’s approval. If approved by the DLGF, by Feb. 5, the school board will certify the approved public question and send it to the county clerk with a copy sent to the County Council (must occur 74 days prior to the May 6 election).

The budget estimate, which includes salaries, health insurance, property insurance, programs, retirement, Social Security, Medicare, dental insurance, life insurance, compensation plans and extracurricular pay, is $4,085,252; the state support estimate is $3,844,820.

At the end of 2013, the Rainy Day Fund, which has been used to pay health insurance premiums of approximately $200,000 each year through a transfer from the Capital Projects Fund, has been emptied. Due to CPF budget cuts by the state, this is no longer permissible. There was about $1.5 million remaining in the General Fund cash balance.

If accepted, the budget relief would last for seven years.

Lanesville Supt. Steve Morris said after the meeting that referendum taxes can only be sought if the school board determines it cannot carry out its education duty unless it imposes a tax level to support school programs.

“It has been interesting; with two public meetings, the turnout has been relatively light but our feedback has been positive. If there is opposition, it hasn’t shown yet,” Morris said.

The corporation has already undergone several cost-cutting measures, including combining the role of superintendent and secondary principal; combining assistant principal, athletic director and transportation director; eliminated benefits for instructional assistants; reduced the number of positions on staff; eliminated two instructional programs, including industrial technology; and joined a health insurance consortium with West Clark Community Schools, Clarksville Community Schools and Salem Community Schools. The corporation also limited teacher pay raises to 1 percent during the past four years.

Starting teacher pay at Lanesville is one of the lowest in Southern Indiana, at $32,250 a year.

According to figures released by the corporation, with state funding following each student, there is no guarantee of future General Fund revenue. If the corporation lost half of its out-of-district students, it could lose $405,000 per year.

Past tax rates at Lanesville have been 62 cents in 2010 and 2011, 68 cents in 2012, 64 cents in 2013 and 66 cents this year. In 2008, before the state took over the General Fund, the local tax rate was $1.26.

Statewide, since 2009, there have been 41 votes on school tax levy referenda, with 22 passing and 19 failing.

The most recent school referendum among neighboring counties was in May 2010, when Clarksville Community School Corp.’s attempt to pass a 24-cent rate failed.

Among other campaign rules, the school corporation may not promote any position by: using school facilities and equipment for public relation purposes (unless equal access is given); using school money; using a school employee during school hours or paid overtime (except if part of regular conduct of office); sending materials with students to homes or including a statement in other materials sent home.

In another matter, Morris announced during the meeting that Lanesville Junior-Senior High School would begin random drug testing for students who drive to school or are involved in any type of extracurricular activity. This includes, but is not limited to, students in athletics, band and clubs.

Testing costs are absorbed by the school. A first offense by a student means they will miss 25 percent of the season, unless they can submit a “clean” test, which must be paid for by the student or their family.

Board president Donnie Hussung said he was not in favor of students being under a “first strike you’re out” rule, so he liked that a second, negative test could allow a student to participate again.

“Also, I think co-curricular and athletes should be treated equally,” Hussung said.

Also, Morris said the corporation was one of 10 in the state that received a $30,000 innovation grant, which he said will be used for the one-to-one laptop initiative. The grant must be used for planning, to do an infrastructure audit, survey staff about teaching with technology or do professional development.

Morris praised Lisa Hammond and Paul Hancock, who wrote the grant request.

The board accepted a signature grant from the Harrison County Community Foundation for renovation of the track facility at the school. The matching grant is for $149,500, which the corporation will need to match.

Morris said ideally the grant would be used to renovate the track, which receives extensive use by the public, resolve drainage issues at the facility, install permanent bleachers, install a permanent scoreboard and possibly install rest-room facilities.

One bid to repair the track only was $175,000, Morris said.

“Track renovation is our first priority,” Morris added.

During reorganization of board officers, Hussung was voted president, Ron Wolfe was voted vice president and Denzil McKim was voted secretary.