Southern Indiana School Districts Struggle to Balance Budgets

by Devin Katayama on October 25, 2011

Southern Indiana school districts are trying to figure out how to balance their budgets before the end of the year. Some districts are outsourcing, while others are consolidating.

The Greater Clark County Schools district is considering closing Maple Elementary School in Jeffersonville. A public hearing on closing the school will be scheduled early next month.

The district faces a nearly $4 million budget shortfall and Maple Elementary is just one of several items being bargained by the board of trustees. Greater Clark has a little over one month to balance the budget, which starts the first of the year, said Tom Galovic, the district’s chief financial officer. Cuts to state funding and the property tax cap have forced difficult decisions, he said.

“It used to be in Indiana that you had tax levies for general funds. So if you needed a couple more million dollars you raise your property taxes, levies went up and that was it. Now we no longer have that ability because the state tells you this is how much money you’re going to get in the general fund,” said Galovic.

Indiana controls how much general revenue districts get, and other funds are determined by the state’s 1 percent property tax cap on homestead owners.

“They’re really hitting you on both sides of the financial equation,” said Galovich. “So you only have a limited amount of money. You have no ability to raise your levies to get more money.”

The tax cap is estimated to cost the district around $2.4 million, he said. But the district won’t know the actual amount until sometime in February, after a budget is in place, he said.

In New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools, leaders chose to outsource its custodial services to save money and Greater Clark County Schools is considering the same, said Galovic.

Both districts are trying to solve $4 million shortfalls from their budgets.

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