With attendance numbers continuing on a historical downward trend, Huntington County Community School Corporation officials said they are confident about next year’s budget although concerns are building for the 2022 budget season.
HCCSC Assistant Superintendent of Business Administration Scott Bumgardner said the corporation plans to propose a $1.28 per $1,000 of assessed valuation tax rate for its advertised budget ahead of a public hearing set for Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at 7:00 p.m. at Salamonie Elementary, 1063 E. 900 S., Warren, where the public will have a chance to weigh in on the approximately $56 million budget.
Bumgardner said he expects the Indiana Department of Local Government and Finance to cut down the rate, and he pointed to how last year the corporation proposed a $1.48 rate in its budget but ended up adopting a budget with a rate of $0.88.
He said the corporation is in good standing this year despite declining enrollment, but he said that HCCSC and other taxing entities haven’t seen the repercussions yet from the pandemic and the past six or seven months.
“Most likely by 2021 and 22, that (is when) we see those repercussions of what went on here since March,” Bumgardner said. “So at this time, we really won’t have a hit to our budget in 2021. I feel very confident with what we will be advertising and where we’ll fall. The concern is going to be in 2021-22 – that will be the concern, next year.
One of the main topics of discussion surrounded the average daily membership (ADM) data that the corporation has collected in order to understand how much state assistance will be provided in the future.
Huntington County Community School Corporation could lose $750,000 dollars of annual state funding based on the current enrollment numbers discussed at the board meeting. Bumgardner said he expects the state to provide more money per pupil this year, around $6,200 for each student enrolled at HCCSC, but he said preliminary numbers the corporation has collected shows that HCCSC has possibly lost 121 students this year compared to the spring semester of 2020.
“You don’t have to be a finance major to look at our ADM chart there and see how that’s trending,” Bumgardner told the board.
Bumgardner said in 2015, HCCSC had just over 5,300 students. In the spring of 2020, HCCSC reported 4,946 students.
“Right now is probably the toughest time I’ve had in my career for actually giving you a number as we have students on campus, off campus,” Bumgardner explained to the board. “We are hoping for something in the 4,900 range, but probably more like 4,825 is what we’re going to land after we shake everything out. Hopefully (we are only) down 100 students, but (I’m) just preparing you that there’s a good chance we are down 200 students by the time this all shakes out.”
Bumgardner said it’s been “a tough year” to predict the budget.
He said HCCSC found out two weeks ago that the state would fully fund virtual students, and the corporation received news a few weeks ago that they landed a large grant allotment for all students to receive school lunches until Dec. 31.
He said the corporation’s assessed valuation (AV) took a dip this year “for the first time in many, many years,” so he said the administration is keeping its eye on that. The corporation’s assessed valuation affects how much money in property tax dollars the corporation takes in.
Bumgardner said the drop in AV could be attributed to a lot of different things, like a recent freeze on agriculture taxes, businesses closing locally and an increase in the use of TIF districts by local governments.
“Things like that which will affect us in the future are things to watch with our AV, but it wasn’t a large enough loss to affect us but it is concerning somewhat,” Bumgardner said, adding that the Granite Ridge Builders addition project in Roanoke could help increase the AV in the future.
He said the dip in AV and the effects of the pandemic will be concerns moving into the 2022 budget proposal season.
Bumgardner also reported that certified staff, like teachers and other salaried employees, rose by three positions in 2020, and he said certified staff, like custodians and hourly workers, was down ten positions from 2019.
“We’ve also seen some benefit of Lancaster and Northwest closing,” Bumgardner added. “We’ve seen a benefit there of having less classified staff, less custodians, less aides, less secretaries – those types of things. So we have seen a benefit there that we are down classified staff although it’s a moving target.”
Bumgardner went on to explain that classified staff is a moving target because the corporation has open classified staff positions that it’s looking to hire.
When asked about the rise in staffing after the school reconfiguration, Bumgardner said mandates by the state and the board have factored into the current situation.
“Our special ed population has blown up, in which we are mandated by law to have a certain number of people serving them. Our (english learning) population has skyrocketed. We have to have, by law, a certain number of people to service them,” Bumgardner explained. “We’ve done programming – like JROTC – adding programming through (all of) this. And you’ve also had a dedication of this board to maintain class sizes. All of that together has contributed to us maintaining a staff although we have less kids. Does that mean that there’s not somewhere out there that we are fat? No, that doesn’t, but I’m just saying I’ve been through everything I can look at. Some of this is unavoidable due to state mandate and due to our differences in EL population, our special ed population, some programming that we think is best for our kids and our community.”
Bumgardner said like most state mandates, Indiana does not provide extra dollars to meet the mandates that bring extra costs.