Reduced assessments cut into new Duneland school revenue

2012-10-07T00:00:00Z 2012-11-08T13:20:51Z Reduced assessments cut into new Duneland school revenueBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
October 07, 2012 12:00 am  • 

CHESTERTON | A widespread drop in property assessments has caused the Duneland School Corp. to scale back on the additional revenue it expects to collect as a result of this year'sĀ referendum.

The district approved a proposed 2013 budget last week that calls for $4.9 million in additional revenue, as compared to a formerly expected high of $5.6 million, said Superintendent Dirk Baer.

The reduced amount still covers the targeted additional revenue of $5 million, he said.

Had the property assessments within the district increased, officials were looking at reducing the voter-approved tax rate from the maximum 22 cents to 20 cents per $100 in assessed valuation, Baer said. The school district is composed of Westchester, Liberty and Jackson townships.

The additional tax rate will be re-evaluated before the start of each of the seven years for which it will remain in place, he said.

Each of the three townships within the Duneland district experienced overall reductions in assessment when the new Porter Regional Hospital in Liberty Township is removed from the equation, said Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder.

It is appropriate to remove the hospital from the equation because it was granted a 10-year, $12.4 million tax abatement in 2009. The property taxes from the facility will be slowly phased in over that designated period of time.

Estimated figures provided by the assessor's office show an $18.4 million assessment loss in Jackson Township and a $17.7 million loss in Westchester Township. A gain of $38.9 million is credited to Liberty Township as a result of the new hospital.

Snyder said one of the factors contributing to the reduced assessments is upper-end housing that was sold at reduced costs or foreclosed upon. One example in the Duneland district is the Sand Creek Country Club.

The tax increase, which was narrowly approved in May by 50.95 percent of the vote, was sought by the district in response to financial losses the school system faces from state-mandated cuts and funding formula inequities.

Baer said earlier this year the increased revenue was needed to prevent the loss of 20 teaching positions and one-third of the custodial and clerical staff. The district's expenses are projected to continue outpacing revenue at an increasing rate through at least 2019, he said.

Voters in Crown Point approved a 21 cent increase in May 2011 for school operations, and Lake Central School Corp. won approval in November on a second bid to borrow money to rebuild two schools.

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