The Herald Bulletin

May 21, 2013

Local school districts prepare to face funding challenges

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Even with a slight increase in state funding projected for the near future, Anderson Preparatory Academy, like many other public schools, will still face financial challenges.

While legislators are making “some positive moves” in K-12 funding that may allow APA to make salaries more competitive, Commandant Robert Guillaume said, the money isn’t enough to really do anything but “maintain status quo.”

APA saw a drop in funding per student from about $6,400 in 2010 to $5,960 this year, he said.

And while that figure, or Average Daily Membership (ADM), is expected to rise again next year, it’s just “slowly inching back up” to what it’d once been at roughly $6,020.

It’s the federal sequestration cuts that will be most felt by the charter.

“Schools are expected, once again, to do more with less,” Guillaume said.

He said the loan forgiveness that Indiana granted charter schools was a blessing, but noted that about $200,000 will be federally cut from APA’s facilities — and the school doesn’t receive capital projects funding from property taxes like public school districts do.

The money, he said, will have to come from alternative sources, such as lenders. It’s a “wizards of accounts” dilemma.

Those federal cuts, about 5 percent worth, are ones that will be felt by schools all over the county and nation.

Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Felix Chow said that money goes toward programs like Title I, that offers assistance to struggling students, and special education.

But at this point, it’s too early to tell what sort of impact that decrease will make, he added.

And despite another forecast decrease in state funding, Chow said, the district is in position to “weather the storm.”

He said ACS has been “very conservative” in spending to build the “very healthy surplus” it has. The district’s 2013 budget predicted a $1 million surplus.

“Even with some cuts, as long as we maintain enrollment we’ll continue to be OK,” he said.

ACS’ enrollment began to stabilize in 2012 when it received $6,556 per student, and Chow said the district has been efficient in its two major expense areas: personnel and building usage.

Buildings have been closed and schools consolidated in the past three years, and two — Killbuck and Southview — are about to reopen in the fall because of a projected increase in younger students.

“On the one hand, we’re an educational institution,” Guillaume said of public schools. “On the other hand, we’re a business.”

He said they have to be good at both.

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