Valparaiso school budget approved by county council
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 29, 2012 11:14PM
Updated: December 1, 2012 6:24AM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Council voted 7-0 to approve the Valparaiso Community Schools budget Monday, which now moves along to the state Department of Local Government Finance for final approval.
“You’ve got some challenges ahead,” Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, said, addressing Interim Superintendent Mike Berta, noting the financial challenges facing the school corporation. “It’s rough.”
The school corporation is advertising a tax rate of $1.76 per $100 assessed valuation, but the actual rate approved by the DLGF will be lower, said Sharon Qualkenbush, the corporation’s chief financial officer. The school corporation’s advertised budget for the coming year is $61.1 million.
The school corporation’s general fund — the largest part of its budget — is being advertised at $38.1 million for the coming year. That fund, the brunt of which covers personnel costs, comes from the state, and both Berta and Whitten expressed concerns about the fund’s sustainability.
“I know the future is going to lead to some reductions,” Whitten said, adding those decisions would be up to school officials — and not the county council — to address.
The corporation is taking a number of steps to address concerns about the general fund, Berta said, including leaving open an administrative position in the central office; consolidating custodial and teachers aides positions when they open through attrition; and reducing the impact of workers’ compensation.
“My priority is to make these kinds of reductions that don’t impact the classroom, but realistically, there’s only so much we can do,” Berta said, adding he was grateful the process was over, particularly because it had been so time consuming for Qualkenbush and him the past several weeks.
Cuts from the state tax caps, tax increment financing districts, and the recession have hit the school corporation hard, said Juanagene Nietert, president of the Valparaiso Teachers Association.
“The schools have had the worst storm that could happen,” she said. “But we have hope, and we will work together with Mr. Berta and Mr. (Jim) Doane (the interim assistant superintendent) to make it happen,” she said.
This is the first time the county council has approved the school budget.
A state law that went into effect July 1 dictates outside approval of the school budget because the school board is appointed; the city council appoints four of the members, and the Center Township Advisory Board appoints one member.