School board studies impact of mill increases

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

An extra work session was similar to an intense math lesson for the Greencastle-Antrim School District school board. Business manager Jolinda Wilson took the opportunity May 9 to walk the board through various scenarios for the 2013-14 budget and beyond.

She explained to Brian Hissong, William Thorne, Mike Shindle, Mike Still, Tracy Baer, Eric Holtzman, Ken Haines, Joel Fridgen and Melinda Cordell how the state arrived at the index each year, which was the maximum number of mills the board could levy. It was based on wages and employee costs with some adjustments. Some of the exceptions, such as payment into the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) were going away, she predicted.

Wilson also shared detailed worksheets on the long-term effect of whatever mill increase the board chose this year, and the data the finance committee looked at to plan out five years.

The board passed a proposed final budget May 2 with a two mill increase, though the index would allow 3.8259. The budget carried a $505,000 deficit.

"When you don't raise mills, your new maximum index never catches up," Wilson said. "The long-term effect of your millage decision results in a significant amount of money over five years."

The board must approve the final budget on June 6.

Hissong, board president, asked his peers, "Does everyone comprehend, we are down to taxes here for our discussion?"

Haines said no. "There are other things that have been pushed aside."

Hissong wanted the focus of the talks to remain narrow since time was running out.

"Don't hold anything in your back pocket. Bring it up now. We need to make the decision of whether we use the fund balance."

Haines later said he wanted to cut five teachers to tackle the deficit.

Fridgen said the two mill increase was really just 1.5, since it recovered the revenue lost when the board eliminated the per capita tax in February. He had also learned of a study which projected Greencastle would have another 1,000 students in 10 years, and he wanted budget planning now to prepare for that.

Hissong reminded everyone that when the district's debt service was paid off in a few years, the PSERS payments would still be increasing.

The board meets again in regular session May 16.