GOSHEN — Some local residents have wondered just how Goshen Community Schools can afford to pursue a $17.15 million construction project during such lean economic times. After all, school officials had to make significant reductions in student transportation services this year, forcing more students to have to walk or take alternative transportation to school.
While voters within the school corporation boundaries will determine the fate of the construction project during a special referendum Tuesday, its success or failure will have no bearing on the corporation’s transportation and capital projects fund shortfalls, according to school officials.
How can that be?
“If the referendum passes, the cost of the project will be above the tax caps, therefore, it will not impact the budgets,” said GCS Business Manager Jerry Hawkins. “When (properties) hit the 1 percent tax cap, we lose the money because of the property tax cap.”
Because of the capping of state property taxes, which is where most funding for public schools comes from, the GCS school board had to make tough choices in transportation for 2013-2014.
With state rules mandating what money in the corporation’s budget can be spent where, coupled with unfunded mandates by the state laws, the transportation shortfall cannot be made up by other funds, Hawkins said.
“If we felt like the transportation shortfall was severe enough, we could ask for a referendum, and there are school corporations doing that,” Hawkins said. “A transportation referendum is an option, but we have chosen to enforce the one-mile walk zone along with some other changes, like combining routes, so we can weather the storm and not ask for a transportation referendum and be fiscally responsible.”
The transportation shortfall has been a more recent issue and the need for a new pool and school renovations project has been planned by the school district since 2007, Hawkins said.