North Judson-San Pierre School officials are preparing to ask taxpayers within the corporation to support a $1.5 million tax increase over the next seven years to fund school operations. The school board will formally authorize the process during their July meeting.
Last night they hosted a town hall “preparing for a referendum” forum to outline what Superintendent Lynn Johnson calls the “perfect storm” of state budget cuts and declining enrollment. General fund revenue has decreased by $1.8 million since 2010, with additional decreases of $300,000 per year expected in 2016 and 2017, for a total funding loss of $2.5 million, according to Johnson. Since 2010, N.J.-S.P. has also lost 352 students.
Board members have been working with CPA Curt Pletcher from Umbaugh and Associates to decide how much money they need to replenish their general fund. They’ve decided to seek a $1.5 million tax increase. Business Manager and Treasurer Guy Richie says this includes a bit of a funding cushion. If voters approve, it will sunset after seven years. Taxes would be higher during the first year but would decline after the corporation pays off an existing debt service loan. The initial proposed rate of 47.5 cents per $100 of assessed value would drop by 20-cents in years two through seven.
Pletcher ran the numbers last night and said a homeowner whose primary residence is valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $155 during the first year and $92 per year in subsequent years. Those numbers factor in things like homestead tax credits. Owners of agricultural land would see an average first-year increase of $9.63 per acre, which would drop to $5.65 until the tax sunsets. Rental and commercial property owners would pay an additional $475 the first year, based on a value of $100,000. That number would drop to $277 after that.
Pletcher stresses this is the maximum rate and cannot go up without being brought before the voters again. After seven years voters will have to approve an extension. If they don’t, taxes will go back down.
Johnson says money from the tax increase would be used to pay for general fund expenses like vocational education, credit recovery, classroom audio/visual media needs, and supplies, which would in turn free money for teacher salaries. They make up the majority of the corporation’s general fund expenses. She adds further cuts aren’t a viable option, as increasing class sizes and eliminating programs will only drive more students away.
WKVI will present the funding discussion in its entirety during Sunday’s “Kankakee Valley Viewpoints” news program at noon CDT on WKVI-FM. Visit http://www.njsp.k12.in.us/the-fight-for-public-education.html for more information.