By Meira Beinstock
For The Herald Bulletin
With the economy in a recession, schools such as South Madison are facing many challenges with budget cuts. One of the primary concerns is receiving an approved budget by the Department of Local Government Finance.
In 2010 and 2011, schools made accommodations for large reductions after budgets were approved. In 2010, the revenue in the general fund for South Madison was cut by $1.1 million. In 2011, the projected revenue was condensed by $1.2 million. South Madison had to make cuts across the board. Not wanting to cut programs, officials made reductions in administrative, certified and non-certified staff.
Revenue for many local districts is shriveling because of “declining assessed value due to the downturn in the real estate market,” explained Joe Buck, superintendent of South Madison Community Schools. “The new property tax caps have resulted in a shortfall in all property tax supported funds. The capital projects fund, transportation fund, bus replacement fund, and debt service fund are all supported by local property taxes.”
When property tax assessments are delayed, schools are often forced to procure short-term loans. In the past, Buck said, South Madison had to wait three months into the budget year before the school district could receive their last settlement of property tax money.
“I think the biggest thing is, the economy needs to turn around,” Buck said. “As state revenue increases, hopefully, the revenue that schools receive will be increased back to the level that it was prior the recession.”
Asked whether Indiana should raise taxes, Buck said he would defer to the politicians.
“We have to deal with the hand that we are dealt and make the best of it,” Buck said. “The biggest challenge is to have an approved general fund budget and then, six months into the budget, have your expected revenue reduced by $1.1 million or $1.2 million. We have been told this year that our projected revenue will not be reduced like it was in 2010 and 2011; hopefully, that will be the case.”