IBJNews

COPPER: Misunderstandings put Indiana school funding in a bind

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana public school facilities have been criticized for costing too much and looking too good.

Now, due to recent legislation and impending permanent caps on property taxes, we’re about to swing to the opposite extreme of schools’ being in constant need of upgrades and repairs.

The looming inability of the state’s 300-plus school systems to repair aging facilities and build new schools for growing populations also promises to suppress job growth.

Making matters worse, the public appears to be confused about referendums required by recent legislation in order to increase taxes for teacher salaries and building projects.

How did we come to this? Look at recent impacts on two school funding sources.

The General Assembly is moving toward approving a voter referendum to limit tax increases on homeowners to 1 percent a year. The limit, which is popular with voters, means huge reductions for schools and additional limitations for tax dollars for capital projects.

When the tax cap began to be phased in last year, the fund that provides for maintenance and repair of school facilities was affected.

With greater demands on updating student learning through technology, there will be fewer or possibly even no dollars available for upkeep and repair of the physical infrastructure of thousands of publicly owned facilities.

These facilities are worth billions of dollars. Fewer tax dollars due to the caps means school systems that hired plumbers and electricians and painters will forgo those purchases, furthering Indiana’s job crisis and economic woes.

In addition, these reductions in capital projects funds will force school districts to delay and then bundle normal maintenance and safety schedules into bigger overall projects that must be funded by bonds through debt service funds—much like a homeowner’s mortgage.

Subject now to voter referendums rather than local school boards, the number of newly constructed school buildings for growing districts and renovations to existing schools will decline given the current economy and political climate. The quality and safety of Indiana’s schools will also suffer.

These bonds will be priced even higher if, as Gov. Mitch Daniels has projected, the state exhausts reserves in the general fund by the end of June.

Again, jobs are affected as Indiana architects, engineers, brick masons, carpenters, cement workers and even small businesses that provide goods and services to construction workers will be hurt by the loss of projects. Even the federal government issued stimulus dollars for just such “shovel ready” projects to promote economic recovery, while Indiana has chosen a more conservative approach.

Finally, the voting public has yet to figure out the differences between new referendums now being held for the general fund (teachers) versus those being held for the debt service fund (buildings).

Recent legislation makes rules for running these public campaigns quite different and confusing. The Perry Township school district recently lost a debt service referendum (facilities), while Beech Grove schools won a referendum centered on saving bus transportation. Hamilton Southeastern’s general fund referendum (salaries) was approved while Noblesville’s facilities referendum was defeated. Franklin Township schools lost a general fund referendum.

School districts can actively campaign and inform the voters about general fund referendums but not for facility referendums. Any of these additional taxes approved by local voters comes outside the 1-percent property tax caps.

The assumption that school districts were building too many Taj Mahals, and the resulting legislation, will lead us to too many unsafe buildings and portable classrooms. We’ve moved too quickly to curtail tax revenue that should be sustaining both school facilities and vital jobs.

There’s an appropriate middle ground for providing needed dollars to support education and good schools, but the current direction is too far right.•

__________

Copper retired in June as superintendent of Lawrence Township schools. Views expressed here are the writer’s.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1

ADVERTISEMENT