VALPARAISO | Valparaiso School Board members on Tuesday got their first look at the district's 2014 budget and the challenges it presents.
Sharon Qualkenbush, chief financial officer for Valparaiso Community Schools, presented the proposed budget, which is expected to go before the City Council for approval in October. A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at City Hall.
Qualkenbush said Valparaiso is grappling with budget challenges such as circuit-breaker property tax losses, tax neutrality and the state's new fiscal funding for the general fund.
Circuit-breaker losses cost the schools $1.6 million in 2012 and 2013, she said.
The general fund, which receives revenue from the state, not property taxes, is estimated to receive $35.6 million in 2014.
The state formula pays Valparaiso schools $4,977 per student, which puts the district at 336 out of 363 for the amount of state funding it receives. The state average is $5,707 per student, Qualkenbush said.
Board member James Sarkisian asked why Valparaiso was ranked so low and what it could do to be higher.
“Are we being punished because we're doing so well?” he asked.
Qualkenbush said schools that provide more free and reduced-price lunches generally receive more tuition support. She said the funding formula is not equitable and encouraged the issue to be raised with state officials.
“Talk to your legislators,” she said.
In other business, the board discussed issuing short-term bonds for deferred maintenance projects at all eight elementary schools, the two middle schools, high school, career center, administration building and service center.
Superintendent Michael Berta said the projects include roof repair, asphalt replacement, heating, air-conditioning and electrical work, installation of security cameras and alterations to school entrances so anyone entering would need to go through a checkpoint.
The project costs are estimated between $9.5 and $12 million, with no one building to receive more than $2 million.
Berta said the district will be paying off some bonds that were taken out years ago and the new bonds would replace old loans. The amount of the bond issue in 2013 will be set to ensure no increase in property taxes, he said.
The bonds are expected to paid off in less than 10 years, probably in four to six years, Qualkenbush said.
Board members agreed it was a great opportunity and planned to continue the discussion at their next meeting, which is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.