VALPARAISO | The state settled a local dispute Thursday by deciding the Valparaiso City Council and not the Porter County Council is the best group to review and and approve the budget of the Valparaiso Community School Corp.
The Indiana State Board of Accounts determined while the school system is legally a separate government entity, it is a "related party and a component unit" of Valparaiso by virtue of the City Council's appointment of more than a simple majority of the School Board members, according to a letter from SBA Deputy State Examiner Paul Joyce.
The Porter County Council had been under the impression that new state legislation made it responsible to approve budgets of appointed school boards, of which Valparaiso stands alone in the county.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, who took the question to the State Board of Accounts earlier this week with the support of the City Council, said Thursday he believes putting the budget review process in the hands of the group making a majority of the School Board appointments is good public policy.
He said the decision is further supported in it was voters from Valparaiso, who passed a referendum on Aug. 30, 1957, to consolidate the city and Center Township school systems into the entity that exists today. That was not done by voters countywide, he said.
Porter County Councilwoman Laura Blaney, D-at-large, said the SBA's decision makes sense in that all the members of the City Council live within the Valparaiso school district, as compared to two members of the County Council.
While some are concerned about having the same group appoint the School Board and sign off on its budget, Blaney said the City Council is accountable to voters in that they are elected.
The decision by the state comes on the heels of the County Council's decision to hire a financial adviser to help it review the school budget.
While the council agreed to pay up to $10,000 to Crowe Horwath LLP of Indianapolis, Blaney said she doubted the firm has yet done much work.
"They knew this was a possibility," she said of the state's decision.