In the education community’s latest adjustment to reassessment in local property taxes, Indianapolis Public Schools has announced a scaled-down budget for 2008.
The new general fund budget for 2008 of $326.2 million, which was adopted by the IPS board last week following a 6-1 vote, will be about $1 million less than the district’s 2007 fiscal plan.
Board members have noted that they are being sensitive to concerns citizens have about rising property taxes, which serve as a significant source of funding for local schools and have decided to keep costs down without compromising essential services.
Passage of the budget came just a few weeks after IPS announced it would have to implement $20 million in cuts.
Administrators warn that individual schools might have to cut back on school activities outside the classroom such as field trips.
Kim Hooper, a spokesperson for IPS, said reassessment of this year’s property has placed the district “in a bind” because it is not received as much money as it anticipated.
“It’s throwing us for a loop just like every other local school corporation,” Hooper said. “Like us, they expected to bring in more revenue so they’re probably making adjustments too.”
Administrators say that most of the cuts will be made in construction projects for new facilities, and next year might even witness the closing of a few Eastside elementary schools.
Hooper, however, noted that the district’s challenges are related more to declining enrollment than a reduction in tax revenue.
“We can’t justify having some of these buildings open if they aren’t at least near capacity,” Hooper said.
With some students moving or being bused out to suburban schools IPS enrollment has mostly declined since 1968. In 2000 the district experienced a modest jump in enrollment thanks to growth in the Latino population, but those gains have been offset by competition from charter schools.
Despite the difficulties however, IPS officials insist that the school system is not in a fiscal crisis and they have been making adjustments annually due to diminishing collections from property taxes, which has also been accelerated by an increase in tax-exempt properties.
Rodney Black, business manager for IPS, said his staff has been looking at ways to make other cuts.
“We have to look at ways to shift things around to ensure that we’re not going into a deficit,” he said.
Hooper said recent administrative changes such as its new uniform policy have been designed to ensure academic success despite fiscal challenges.
“This is about the revolution,” Hooper said. “We are changing how we look so we can change how we act and behave in school, which will impact the way we teach and learn.”