School board adopts proposed deficit budget, to keep talking

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

The proposed final budget for the Greencastle-Antrim School District (G-ASD) fiscal year 2013-2014 was adopted May 2, but the school board agreed to schedule an extra meeting to discuss the matter more, before the permanent decision in June.

Members Brian Hissong, Eric Holtzman, Tracy Baer, Ken Haines and Joel Fridgen supported a $35,138,153 budget, which included a 2 mill increase in property taxes. Melinda Cordell, Mike Still and William Thorne voted no.

“We should go to the max,” said Thorne. “I know that will fall on deaf ears with this board. Levying only one mill last year really hurt us. I don't want to go into reserves.”

Business manager Jolinda Wilson said the budget was extremely tight. “Without a crystal ball, I project we will use more of the fund balance than we anticipated.”

As it stood, she said the $505,556 deficit would be covered by reserves. Mandatory increased expenses included $400,000 for the Public School Employees Retirement System, which would go up another $400,000 the following year.

The Act I index allowed G-ASD to levy 3.8259 mills for 2013-14. One mill brings in $188,693.

Fridgen urged the board to look several years out to understand the effects of this year's mill rate.

“The mill increase should be in context of future expenses. We have to make sure we understand, so when we vote in June, we know what it constitutes.”

Baer also wanted to know the figures for a future building expansion.

Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover agreed, though those funds came from capital reserves. If G-ASD did not keep up with building plans, it would be out of the pipeline for state funding.

Hissong concurred. “Whether the economy is growing or not, we are growing.”

Still wondered what impact commercial development at exit 3 would have on tax revenue. Cordell said it was safe to assume nothing would happen for some time.

Fridgen asked for another work session. Wilson planned to bring numbers for different mill rate increases, and the cumulative effect it would have on the district for the next five years.

The meeting was set for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 9.

“I'm a 2 mill guy,” said Hissong. “I'm open to keep educating the board and the public. You never know what may come out of it.”