The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

How can a school put in new equipment and then cut personnel when money is tight?

Have you ever wondered how in the world a school can defend putting in a new piece of equipment or buying a new school bus at the same time they are cutting teaching positions? If so, you wouldn't be alone.

In the "Alice-in-Wonderland World" of laws that govern school finance, here is why:

Picture 6 different coffee cans, painted white, sitting on your countertop at home . Visualize each white can with the following labels marked boldly with black magic marker:

1. General Fund: This is the largest coffee can on the counter, and the most important one. In most school districts this fund is almost 90% personnel costs, most of which is spent on instruction. In Wawasee, approximately 46% of the money in this can is supplied by the state of Indiana and about 54% from local taxes. Because the state is broke, they are only going to increase the overall money for the state a small amount. This is deceiving because they are actually planning to withhold money from Wawasee and send the money to other school districts. We get cut. It is illegal to take money from another coffee can and put into this one. Because 90% is personnel, there is virtually no way to make large scale budget cuts without affecting personnel. Your school board has no control over the size of this coffee can, or how much goes into it. It is all controlled by the state legislators including how much the state contributes and how much the locals have to contribute from taxes.

2. Transportation Operating Fund: This coffee can is used to pay for bus driver salaries, fuel costs and all costs related to operating the bus fleet. All the money in the can is collected from local taxes with no help from the state. The fund is capped and your school board cannot raise it above the cap. It is illegal to take money out of this coffee can and put into another can.

3. Bus Replacement Fund: The money in this coffee can is also collected from local taxes with no help from the state. It is used only to buy new buses. We replace them after 10 years and put them out to pasture as extras for field trips and athletic trips. Then we take them out and shoot them. I'm sorry, we trade them in. :-) On e-bay you can get one for $1,000. It is illegal to take money out of this coffee can and put into another one.

4. Debt Service Fund: This coffee can contains money that is also collected from local taxes with no help from the state. It can only be used to pay for bond issues and other debts. It is used to pay the mortgage on the building renovations and to pay for the pension buyout. It is illegal to take money out of the can and put it into another can.

5. Special Education Preschool Fund: This is the smallest coffee can of all. It can only be used to pay for special needs children of preschool age. It is mostly funded with local taxes and a small amount comes from the state. It is illegal to raid this coffee can and put the money into another one.

6. Capital Projects Fund: This is a medium sized coffee can. It is used to pay for building repairs, computer technology, computer technicians and equipment purchases. The coffee can is entirely filled with local tax dollars and no help from the state. The fund is capped and the board cannot raise it above the cap. It is illegal to take money from this can and put into another coffee can.

The only fund that is in trouble at this time is the General Fund, because it is the only one dependent on state support.

If you find yourself frustrated at potential cuts in programs for children, make sure you have done what you can to make your voice heard.

What is that?

Using your home computer, log on to The Wawascene and click on the "Write Your Legislator" web sticker and let them know how you feel. No one is denying the state's fiscal crisis, but it is important to know that the children are the one's whose program is impacted. We will be able to make some progress through attrition, but like most schools, programs are going to be affected eventually.

Exercise the most precious right there is to have as a free American. Participate in your democracy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was a great article to help us visualize the school funding crisis. Thanks, Mr. Stock. However, for me two questions remain in my mind though:
1. What "can" does all the athletic funding come out of? Which fund pays for the many, many coaches in our corporation?
2. If it is illegal to move money from fund to fund, should we be talking to our legislators about changing laws so that the district has more control over their money?