Southsider Voice correspondent
The Beech Grove Board of Education will meet Jan. 12 for a hearing to decide on a construction referendum and an operating tax levy.
If approved, the measures would improve heating and air conditioning systems at four schools and enhance the high school’s facilities for bands and choirs.
A separate referendum, if approved, would continue bus transportation for students while funding drivers and maintenance and school safety through resource officers and secure entrances.
Failure is not an option, according to Superintendent Paul Kaiser, who emphasized that the administration has been good stewards of taxpayer funds in recent years. The operating referendum would not exceed the property tax rate of 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
Kaiser said the school district has cut operating costs through savings in employee insurance, outsourcing custodial services, workmen’s compensation savings, utilizing nurses from the Community Health Network and having counselors from Adult & Child.
The district moved $1.5 million from capital project expenses to the general fund and saved monies due to reduced administrative positions and teacher salaries through early retirements.
In turn, the district was able to hire 20 additional teachers, four special education teachers and retain K-6 teachers for art, music, physical education and technology education. Vocational grant revenue increased from $325,000 to $735,000 for family/consumer science, agri-science and new business courses plus Central Nine programs.
Meanwhile, the district’s assessed valuation has dropped $132 million since 2007, and transportation costs have risen $300,000. The result has been a loss in $3 million due to the state’s property tax cap.
Board members warn that bus transportation would be reduced beginning in August if the proposed operations referendum is not approved May 5.
Cost of HVAC at four schools, renovation of the high school auditorium and expansion and improvements of band and choral instructional space would cost $7.9 million. The proposed property tax rate would be 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for debt service for 20 years beginning in 2016.
Shortfall options would lead to pay-to-play sports, increased class size, elimination of after-school and summer programs, air quality violations and limitations due to lack of facilities for band, choir and drama students.
If the board decides to move forward with the resolution, the process to seek a tax increase will be launched.
In 2009, Beech Grove voters endorsed a tax increase to keep school buses operating by a 62 percent majority.