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Tax increase topic of special meeting

The North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7:30 in the North Harrison High School auditeria in order to provide further explanation about the school system’s budget situation.
Questions and concerns have flooded the North Harrison superintendent’s office in Ramsey since property tax statements began arriving in mailboxes earlier this month. Property owners in the North Harrison school district (Blue River, Jackson, Morgan and Spencer townships) saw the school portion of their statements increase from 87 cents per $100 of assessed value on last year’s statements to $1.50 per $100 assessed value this year.
Superintendent John Roeder has been fielding phone calls about the in-crease and took time at the April 8 regular school board meeting to explain the circumstances that caused the increase in the tax rate.
The school board met in special session Friday even-ing to schedule tomorrow’s open meeting and to approve a letter to the property owners in the school district. The letter, which was sent home Monday with each student in the school corporation and is available for viewing in its entirety on the school corporation’s website, (click on ‘Public meeting – property tax information’), was signed by four of the five school board members. Bobby Chinn voted against the letter.
‘I believe the letter is a way to outsource blame, (is) too costly and probably politically enhanced, and very poorly penned,’ he said Monday. ‘I think the public had a chance to read publications (such as The Corydon Democrat) to understand what happened.’
What happened, as ex-plained in the letter, involves two factors: In 2007, $666,000 from riverboat gaming funds was not applied to reduce tax rates until 2009, which caused the 2009 tax rate to drop ‘significantly’ when it was applied. Also, the school corporation collected $410,000 less in the bus replacement fund the previous year, which caused the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to reduce the rate even more.
The tax rate, which has fluctuated between $1.30 and $1.44 the past several years, was reduced to 87 cents last year.
The letter further ex-plains that the ‘budgetary errors have occurred during the transition between two superintendents.’
Gary Byrne, president of the school board, said the school board would not have approved the 2010 budget in September if it had known the tax rate would be raising $6 million. ‘We’re too high this year,’ he said. ‘Next year, it will go down, then the following year it will go back up.’
The letter indicates that the school board ‘has directed the superintendent to hold the line on spending and to carry forward the balance of approximately $990,000 into 2011. That action will reduce next year’s tax collection to approximately $4 million. This Board action will return the amount of over collection in 2010 to taxpayers.’
Chinn believes that the majority of people who are upset by the hike in the tax rate are just angry because they’re required to pay their tax bill by May 10 after just paying the second installment of last year’s property tax bill by Jan. 10.
‘The county could have given them some time relief for a few months, but I think there was a push to get them done before the election,’ he said. ‘Once again, political.
‘Our children deserve a good place to get an education, and sometimes this means, as a board member, you need to do what is right for them, not necessarily what is politically right.’
The letter, signed by Byrne, Michael Beyerle, Fred Naegele and Jerry Renneker, also expressed the school board’s appreciation for ‘the support of our communities for education and the building projects which have provided an excellent educational environment for students.’