Zionsville Times Sentinel

August 14, 2013

ZCS board discusses Referendum Fund

By Andrea McCann
Managing Editor

---- — The Zionsville Community Schools Board of School Trustees heard some good news and some not-so-good news about the corporation's Referendum Fund at its regular meeting Monday night, Aug. 12.

Board member Bill Stanczykiewicz questioned the June revenues for the fund, saying the expected amount was about $2.5 million, but there was $2.8 million listed. In response, Chief Financial Officer Michael Shafer explained that excise taxes added to the property tax levy increased the amount of the fund.

In his report, Shafer wrote: "The Referendum Fund is not subject to circuit breaker losses. Property taxes received were 2.3 percent greater than projected for the first half of the year, while excise taxes were 19.8 percent above projection."

June was the first month to reflect expenditures from the Referendum Fund for teacher salaries and payroll costs. Shafer told the board that the fund should last through the teacher contract year of 2016.

The less appealing news came later, in Superintendent Scott Robison's report, when he told board members that as state funding declines, even using the referendum money won’t get the job done. The result will be increased class size until the funding formula changes, he said. Shafer used the old adage attributed to car salesmen to illustrate: "We're losing a little on each one, but making it up in volume."

Already there's been concern about class size at Stonegate Elementary for this school year, according to Robison, and a third-grade teacher was moved to fourth grade to alleviate the issues. He said class size goals set several years ago are rarely met because it's difficult to know where families will move in and the ages of their children. Class sizes remain under 30 students in the schools, but some have reached 28 or 29.

"The last time we had per-pupil funding this low was 2003, with 1,700 fewer students to serve," Robison said.

The enrollment growth has at least generated $481,000 in state funding, but that money is already spoken for with the previously approved hiring of 7.25 teachers for this school year at a cost of $438,000. If the corporation sought to staff all classes and courses "in accordance with the metric ideal," Robison said the cost would be $1.78 million.

"In regard to the referendum, it provides us with a nice supplement to the funding the state provides," Shafer said. "Class size would shoot up to a very large degree without those referendum dollars."

He explained that referendum money will continue to fund 26 people hired with that money. However, it will not pay to hire any additional staff. Stanczykiewicz suggested it may be time to look at when the next referendum will be.

See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.