Seymour Community School Corp. is looking to raise its tax rate for 2017 to increase funding for capital projects and transportation.
That increase could amount to property owners having to pay an additional 3 cents per $100 of taxable property on their 2017 property tax bills. For residential homeowners, that would be equal to $30 more annually on a home costing $100,000.
The board of school trustees will hold a public hearing on its 2017 budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the administration office. The meeting is an opportunity for taxpayers and the public to learn more about the schools’ expenses and funding and ask questions and voice concerns.
The budget will then be adopted at 7 p.m. Oct. 11.
Business manager Steve Nauman said some people might not see an increase at all depending on property tax rate caps that were put in place in 2010.
“It’s hard to predict how much 3 cents might cost each taxpayer,” he said.
There could even be a drop in the rate depending on the assessed valuation of all properties in the taxing district.
“If the assessed valuation would increase, there might be a possible tax decrease like last year,” he said.
In 2016, the schools’ tax rate dropped from 72.93 cents to 71.54 cents.
Seymour’s rate is the lowest of all three public school corporations in Jackson County with Brownstown’s rate being 86.07 cents, Crothersville’s at 93.17 cents and Medora’s rate at $1.88.
It’s also lower than Scottsburg, Jennings County, Austin and Columbus, Nauman said.
The district is actually taxing about one cent less than what the state has recommended, he added.
“We have been able to keep the tax rate low because of growing student population and increased assessed valuation,” he said. “We are lucky to be in that situation.”
The general fund, which is not supported by local taxes, will increase by $1 million in 2017 due to student growth and increased state support based on enrollment.
The corporation has a total enrollment of 4,659 students this school year, an increase of more than 100 students since last fall.
“We have increased the general fund budget by approximately $6.7 million since 2011 due to increased student population,” Nauman said. “In return, the corporation has been able to add staff, instruction programs and supplies to benefit our students.”
That’s one reason why he feels a 3 cent local tax increase is a fair request at this time to support the education and safety of students.
Of the three cents, one cent is for the capital projects fund which is used to improve and maintain technology and school buildings. The other two cents is for the transportation operation fund.
“Due to additional students and need to transport them to and from school, we have hired more bus drivers in the past several years,” he said.
The corporation is paying around $200,000 a year out of its general fund to operate buses because of lack of state support for transportation, Nauman added. That is money that could have been used in the classroom and to hire additional teaching staff, he said.
“Without some type of relief to the transportation fund, the problem will only get worse for us over time,” he said. “The property tax circuit breaker is a major problem for this fund.”
Even with the requested rate increase, the corporation’s overall 2017 budget of $47,280,334 is projected to be down $3.4 million from this year’s budget of $50,673.160.
That’s because the district doesn’t need to save as much money in its rainy day fund next year, and it already has $2 million available in capital projects from this year to pay for a project to build an agricultural science farm and research center.
The corporation has $7.6 million in rainy day savings, making it just $400,000 short of its 25 percent operating balance goal, Nauman said.
Seymour Community Schools has been able to complete several building projects over the last three years, spending more than $12 million to maintain, upgrade and expand facilities to deal with increased student enrollment.
“There are always projects to be considered,” Nauman said. “The school board has tried to keep the tax rate and debt stable to help the taxpayers.
It won’t be long before the district will have to seek the taxpayers approval for a much bigger and expensive project to renovate and/or expand Seymour High School or build a new school, Nauman added.
“As enrollment continues to grow and the buildings age, future building needs will have to be considered above and beyond what the capital projects fund can support,” he said.
Nauman encourages people to attend meetings and ask questions to be informed about educational opportunities being provided to students.
“Good schools help to promote the growth and opportunities for all citizens of this community,” he said. “As we move forward, it is our goal to keep the taxpayers of Seymour informed. Their continued support and understanding help to keep our school corporation an educational leader in southern Indiana.”
What: 2017 budget hearing for Seymour Community School Corp.
Where: Administration office, 1638 S. Walnut St.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
2017 proposed budget;current 2016 budget
School pension debt;$305,941;$306,300