State says Valpo City Council should be reviewer of school system’s budget
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 7, 2012 2:16PM
Updated: October 9, 2012 3:02PM
VALPARAISO — The Indiana State Board of Accounts has ruled that the Valparaiso City Council — and not the Porter County Council — should review the Valparaiso School Corp.’s budget.
The ruling came Thursday at the behest of State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, as the county council prepared to review the budget with the help of an outside accounting firm. The budget must be passed by Nov. 1.
“Absolutely, with no equivocation, the right body to set the budget was the Valparaiso City Council,” Soliday said.
The city council is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing on the school budget in conjunction with its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at City Hall, said attorney David Hollenbeck, who represents both the city council and the school corporation. Adoption of the budget is scheduled for the council’s Oct. 8 meeting.
“We’re in unchartered waters here. It’s never been done before,” Hollenbeck said, adding he expects school administrators and school board members to be at both meetings.
A new state law dictates outside approval of the school budget because the school board is appointed; the city council and the Center Township Advisory Board make the appointments.
The city council is the proper authority to review the budget because the school corporation, which now includes all of Center Township, was originally established by the city, Paul Joyce, deputy state examiner with the board of accounts, said in his letter to Soliday.
“In the beginning, it was questionable if the county council should even handle this,” said Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd District, noting that she and Sylvia Graham, D-At-large, are the only two council members within the school district.
Having the city council review the budget makes more sense, she said. “I think it’s a good fit.”
The county council had called for a forensic audit by a third party of the school’s budget, but backed off because of time constraints and instead hired an Indianapolis firm to help review the budget.
But Joyce said in an interview Friday that the county council could not have hired a firm for an outside audit.
“It would be an unnecessary expense. It would be a waste of taxpayer money,” Joyce said, adding his agency already provides that service. “It would be a duplication of effort.”
The school budget still will be reviewed in an open process by the city council, Conover said, and if anything, she thinks the county council should be relieved that members don’t have the added responsibility of the school budget.
“We have our hands full with our own challenges, but I was going to do what I was given to do,” she said.