The Duneland School Corp. recently completed the annual process that established its operating budget for 2014.
The School Board adopted the 2014 budget in early October. While the school year runs from about mid-August through early June, the state operates on a July through June fiscal year. The district's financial (i.e. budget) year follows the traditional January through December calendar cycle.
Collectively, the varying timelines and state and local regulations will determine the amount of funding available for Duneland to operate the entire school system: from employing teachers and instructional support staff, to maintaining buildings/facilities, paying the bills, operating and maintaining school buses, and everything else that must be done to provide a complete educational experience for students every day.
The budgeting process for Indiana public schools is established by statute. Funding for public schools is primarily determined by a prescribed state formula and by the limits of the property tax system. In other words, school districts are not allowed to simply tax the local taxpayers and then ask the state for whatever amount of money the districts decide is needed to operate their school systems.
Public school corporation budgets are comprised of several different funds. Each fund has a specific purpose and a specific funding source. The general fund is the largest and most versatile fund. It covers the costs for most employee salaries and benefits, materials and supplies, most insurance and utilities, and all other costs required to administer the school system.
General fund money comes primarily from the state and the amount the school corporation receives is primarily determined by the number of students enrolled in the district.
The other operating funds are: debt service (the "mortgage" payments); pension debt service; capital projects (the repair, replacement, and updating of buildings and facilities, and purchase of equipment); transportation operating (the drive and operate the buses fund); and the bus replacement fund. These funds are funded from local property taxes. It is important to note that school corporations are not permitted to simply levy and then redirect property taxes from these funds outside the scope for which they are designated.
Duneland schools first received funding for a voter-approved referendum fund for general operations in 2013. The fund was established as a result of a positive vote in May 2012 when Duneland taxpayers approved a rate-capped general property tax fund.
While this is an additional fund for Duneland schools, its purpose is to supplement the general fund with the overall operating costs of the school corporation. The referendum fund will help replace much of the funding that has been cut by the state over the past several years.
The students, teachers, support staff, parents, administration and staff are grateful for the community’s support of one of the fundamental building blocks of our community — the Duneland School Corp. Each day, we strive to use our resources wisely and effectively to make a positive difference for our students and our community.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.