To paraphrase Munster School Superintendent Richard Sopko after last week's successful school referendum, “We won one for the kids!”
Congratulations to all residents of Munster for approving the May 7 Munster School Town’s request for increased operating revenue.
The 65 percent approval spoke loudly of our community’s commitment and vision for the future. This was not a vote to keep the status quo. The status quo, in time, would ruin the high quality of the school system that is so critical to our community.
The Indiana General Assembly forced these types of referendums and decision making on communities as a result of changes in the school funding formula.
The quality of a community’s educational system extends to all levels of the overall health of that community. Support of our public school systems cannot be viewed as a cost, but rather an investment.
The value of your property, the most important factor in many of our personal economic decisions, is linked to many variables, including schools, government services, libraries, etc. Your continued support of the school and town efforts to provide you with a high level of service is appreciated by the elected officials and employees of both organizations.
The Munster School Board and employees have shown over the years that they put children first. Several years ago, when it became necessary to begin making budget cuts, the administration, teaching, and non-teaching staffs joined together to share in the pain, and they did it in a professional manner.
The town has gone through similar downsizing issues as a result of having local property tax levies frozen since 2007 due to Lake County’s unwillingness to adopt a Local Option Income Tax. Reductions in the number of employees have created difficult times.
The reductions that caused the structural deficit in the school’s budget were the direct result of the flawed education funding formula. The School Town of Munster documented the impact on our system with this formula. While our local taxes went down a few years ago, as a result of the state assuming the school General Fund financing after raising the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, the schools ended up losing.
This is a story familiar to many of us in local government. The state takes an action and promises the locals they will not be negatively impacted by the decision. Yet, somehow, we end up on the short end of the equation.
When the economy had a downturn and the state sales tax revenue declined, the state’s response was to reduce school funding by over $300 million. When sales tax revenue increased, cuts were not fully restored.
The new income tax and resulting thaw of the frozen property tax levy will not resolve all the problems. All elected officials and employees must remain vigilant to contain the cost of government.
We must work to insure whatever new revenue we receive will be spent wisely to provide the best service to the majority of our community.