‘This can’t be right’
As if the funding loss weren’t bad enough, GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth said the state now requires school corporations to spread that funding loss equally between three main funds — capital projects, which covers things like building maintenance and repairs; transportation, which covers fuel costs and bus driver salaries; and bus replacement, which is used to purchase new buses.
“In the past Goshen has always taken the hit in capital projects, and you just think eventually we’ll have to do a bond in order to pay for roof repairs and things like that,” Woodworth said. “But we’ve always protected the transportation fund. So this is the first year where they’ve told us we have to take a loss there too. So that was a real shock. And on top of that, now we’re hearing that we’ll have a $3.7 million loss in funding for the coming school year. Our transportation fund will drop down to $850,000 for a $2.1 million budget. ... It’s ridiculous. I mean, we keep thinking that someone will come to their senses, because this can’t be right.”
Another source of frustration for both Woodworth and Stubbs is that the impending funding cuts are not affecting all seven of Elkhart County’s school districts equally.
“That’s what’s really frustrating about all this,” Woodworth said. “Elkhart County has seven districts, and the worst hit percentage-wise and dollar-wise are Elkhart, Concord and Goshen. We’re all kind of in a similar world of hurt. The other surrounding schools don’t have near the loss. For example, there are a couple that are reporting a $400,000 loss, when we’re facing a $3.7 million loss. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
According to CCS Business Manager Janet Gruwell, much of that discrepancy is because Elkhart, Concord and Goshen are urban schools with a much higher percentage of homes.
“A lot of it depends on what makes up your tax base,” Gruwell said. “Concord is made up mostly of homes. We don’t have a lot of industry, and with homes hitting the tax cap at 1 percent, almost all of our taxpayers are hitting the cap, resulting in less money coming to us.”
Woodworth also noted that large school districts that have needed to build and expand in recent years due to continuing growth are also being penalized due to the debt they’ve incurred.
“So again, it feels like a greater difficulty for urban schools,” Woodworth said. “Like Concord, which recently built a new Junior High, we’ve grown too. We built Prairie View, we remodeled four elementaries, so we also have some debt. But it’s because we grew. So it feels like we’re being penalized for growing.”