A public hearing was conducted at the East Allen County Schools Board of Trustees meeting Sept. 21 regarding the proposed 2022 budget, bus replacement plan and capital projects plan. The appropriations for the 2021 General Obligation Bond were discussed as well.
According to Chief Financial Officer Patrick McCann, a public hearing is required whenever a school corporation raises money for a specific project to receive feedback from the public about the plans.
According to the notice for the taxpayers in the district, the 2022 budget is estimated at $133,165,503. The maximum estimates funds to be raised including appeals and levies exempt from maximum levy limitations is $28,423,484. The current tax levy amounts to $25,832,931.
The budget for 2021 was estimated at $105,282,008 — a difference by nearly $27 million.
This notice also states that the levy percentage difference for the operations fund will be 8.41%, which slightly increased from the previous year’s projections at 8.36%. The debt service fund levy percentage rose from 15% in 2021 to 16.36%. The school pension debt percentage had the most significant change with a decline by -24.96% compared to the -0.53% in 2021.
McCann explained that the additional appropriations associated with the GO Bond are the $5,575,000, which is the maximum amount for a bond, to be used for roofing, HVAC, masonry and asphalt in the districtwide projects.
Two people spoke on these topics. The first was EACS parent Lindsey Hammond, and she was questioning how the school board was spending its money.
“I guess I am just having a little trouble wrapping my head around all of this,” Hammond said.
She asked why these measures are necessary because if the school system knew these projects were needed, it should have saved money throughout the years.
“I have an accounting background, and my background tells me that, for these types of expenses, you would set aside money or allocate money each year in your budget, and if that money isn’t used, it rolls over, from my understanding, for a school board budget,” Hammond said. “So where is the money that should have been going toward these projects that we took out a bond last year, and now we are taking out another bond this year.”
Hammond asked if they planned on continuing this trend by implementing another bond each year until the projects are complete. She wondered why the projects were happening at the same time.
“It just seems like the taxpayers are being treated as an unlimited line of credit, and we are being cut out of the decision-making process intentionally,” Hammond said. “That, to me, is very concerning. The taxpayers might not have recourse, but the voters do have recourse.”
The second speaker, Vanessa King, asked that the board wait to see the enrollment numbers this year before proceeding.
“There was a 2% decrease last year, and from what we are hearing, it sounds like public schools across Indiana are seeing huge drops in enrollment this year due to the overreach of the Health Department and concerns about curriculum,” King said. “I don’t see our district being an exception.”
King asked if the enrollment numbers would be released before the budget was adopted because she felt they should be.
“Education funding is based on enrollment, so by estimating it higher, it would correlate to higher revenue, and subsequently, an increase in budgeted expenses,” King said. “What happens if enrollment is lower than projected? Will the budget be adjusted to reflect less revenue, as well as expenses?”
Both speakers asked that the process not go forward until their questions have been answered.
During the superintendent comments of the meeting, EACS Superintendent Marilyn Hissong revealed that the unofficial numbers show that enrollment has increased, but she will have to wait for the official numbers from the state to come before she knows for sure.
“I’ve been updating you on our enrollment numbers,” Hissong said to the Board. “We don’t have official numbers yet, but our preliminary numbers are up, so we are very excited about that. It’s actually a pretty significant amount compared to previous years.”
During the regularly scheduled meeting, the board approved the Additional Appropriation Resolution and Final Bond Resolution.
The Board will meet to vote on this budget Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place at the EACS Administration Building located at 1240 S.R. 930 E.
The Board also:
- Listened to a technology update from Director of Technology Keith Madsen.
- Approved school improvement plan summaries for each school in the district.
- Discussed authorizing a residential housing tax incremental financing district.