VALPARAISO | Public hearings on budgets for governmental units don't usually inspire comments from the public. On Oct. 14, Valparaiso residents will have twice as much not inspire them.
Budgets for the city and the school corporation were introduced at Monday's City Council meeting. State law requires council review and approval of the school budget before it is submitted to the state. A final vote on both is expected at the council's Oct. 28 meeting.
The schools' advertised budget of $61.2 million is about $102,000 more than the 2013 advertised budget, but only $58.8 was approved by the state. Chief Financial Officer Sharon Qualkenbush said the district also plans to seek a bond issue for about $12 million for maintenance projects on every school.
The bond issue will not increase taxes because past bond issues will be paid down enough that the same revenue stream can be used for the new bonds. Valparaiso schools receive just under $5,000 per pupil from the state for its operating funds. The amount ranks 336th of the 363 districts in the state and is about $700 below the state average.
The low return plus the complexity of the overall school funding process, which has state money paid out on a fiscal year that runs from July through June while the school budget is based on a calendar year, makes it difficult to know how much money Valparaiso will receive at the time it is planning its budget, officials said.
One of the state grants is called the complexity grant, which Councilman Mike Baird said must have been named by some legislator with a real sense of humor. Baird said he couldn't imagine a business trying to operate under the conditions the schools are asked to do so.
The city budget is under the same conditions of flatlining income while trying to provide 3 percent pay increases for everyone. City Administrator Bill Oeding said some employees were paid less than the market range the city aims for. These employees will receive an additional increase.
Clerk-Treasurer Sharon Swihart said the new special fire protection territory budget for operating and for equipment replacement budget are part of the budget for the first time after being properly adopted earlier this year.
Swihart said she thought it should be separate since it is made up of both the city and Center Township, but the state Department of Local Government Finance, which has final say over all government budgets, disagreed.