Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 9, 2013

Is extra money being spent on per-student tuition support?


— Elkhart County, 40 years ago, was the largest county in the state to adopt the County Adjusted Income Tax (CAGIT) at the maximum 1 percent rate allowed by the law signed by Gov. Otis Bowen. The state collects the revenue and returns the collected revenue based upon filed individual income tax returns.

If somebody has local option income taxes withheld and doesn’t file an income tax return, what happens to the revenue? A front page article in The Goshen News (Feb. 23) mentioned that the revenue difference would go into the state general fund. Further, the article mentioned that some local officials were concerned that Elkhart County was losing some revenue from Local Option Income Taxes (LOIT).

However, that point of view overlooks the fact that the excess LOIT revenue could be distributed as tuition support for Indiana K-12 public school corporations. The Indiana Department of Revenue doesn’t keep records detailed enough to tell us if an Indiana county would gain or lose revenue with this process.

How should tuition support per student be determined for Indiana school corporations? The state, for example, might send a check for $6,000 per student to K-12 school corporations. However, are the per-student costs higher in Gary and Hammond than in Elkhart County? Therefore, how can the per-student amounts be determined if they are different? Property tax is the major source of revenue for Indiana schools. If Warsaw schools had a $1 school rate some years ago, Hammond and Gary needed about a $3 rate to raise the same amount of revenue per student. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that Hammond and Gary receive more tuition support per student from the state.

— Ralph Spelbring

Elkhart