By Liz Shepherd
LEESBURG — The Warsaw Community School Board passed a resolution supporting the establishment of a residential TIF in Winona Lake during a meeting on Monday, Nov. 16.
Essentially, the town of Winona Lake hopes to replicate a residential TIF plan with WCS similar to one that the city of Warsaw established with the school district a year ago. Warsaw Community Schools is one of the parties the redevelopment commission brought the resolution to for approval since Jefferson Elementary School is inside the proposed district.
The Raccoon Run and Stonehenge Golf Course areas are also included in the proposed district.
The town’s proposal follows a new law that allows taxing units to create tax increment finance (TIF) districts to help boost residential development. Establishing TIF districts would allow the town to capture new property tax revenue and use those funds to provide infrastructure for residential development.
Winona Lake’s redevelopment commission also approved a memorandum of understanding with the school district on Nov. 4. Taxes raised within the district will help the school corporation restore the gym floor at Jefferson Elementary. Funds raised will also help Winona Lake’s town engineer work on a design to help with dropping off and picking up students at the school.
Winona Lake Town Council will vote on the TIF resolution during a meeting this evening.
The school board also approved 2021 stipends and raises for support staff. WCS Chief Financial Officer April Fitterling proposed a 2% increase for all support staff and a 2.5% increase for custodial and transportation staff. Food services staff will also receive an increase.
Fitterling also recommended a $300 stipend for all support staff, as well as an insurance premium holiday for support staff who have insurance through WCS.
All of the proposals for the stipend, insurance premium holiday and raises for support staff were approved by the board.
WCS also received $253,290 through a teacher appreciation grant from the State of Indiana.
“We will be paying those teacher appreciation grants out on the exact same day as the support staff stipends as well,” said Fitterling.
WCS Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert also gave a brief update on the school corporation’s COVID-19 situation and read an open letter to the community, which was released publicly last week.
In the letter, Hoffert noted that transportation and food service staff, as well as substitute teachers, are running thin. If staff absences due to COVID-19 continue, the school corporation may have to make modifications to its schedule; these options include temporarily shifting to e-Learning days, implementing a hybrid schedule or having specific schools go remote for a specified time.
The letter also referenced nearby school districts that have had to make changes due to staff or student circumstances regarding COVID-19.
Locally, Tippecanoe Valley High School and Burket Education Center are having virtual instruction for the next two weeks. Wawasee High School will continue to operate virtually through Friday, Nov. 20.
“These last eight months have been a unique time for Warsaw Community Schools,” said Hoffert. “We cannot stress enough that if our schools are to remain open, we really need assistance from the community. Our support staff is most critical right now due to contact tracing that needs to happen. We understand that this is an inconvenience but we are doing that to keep our schools open and keep them open safely.”
The board’s next work session is at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the school corporation’s central office. Warsaw Schools’ next regular board meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, at Washington STEM Academy.