By Tim Ashley
SYRACUSE — School corporation budgets can seem complicated and hard to understand, but don’t tell that to James Flecker, director of personnel and legal services for the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Flecker used a much more lighthearted approach when giving a budget workshop presentation to the Wawasee School Board at a special meeting Tuesday evening, Aug. 31, in Syracuse.
Noting it is not often he can take a lighthearted approach, Flecker even used a few magic tricks as part of his presentation. “We might as well make it interesting,” he said.
Stating the budget process is not really “mystifying,” he noted there are three forms submitted to the state including anticipated expenses, anticipated revenue and both revenue and expenses. Estimated expenses for the 2022 budget are $7.5 million.
In 2018 the state revamped how budget funds, or slices of the pie so to speak, are set up. Now there are three funds: operations, education and debt service.
The education fund is provided by the state based on the number of students enrolled and is estimated to be $20.5 million for the 2022 budget. The operations budget is estimated at about $9 million but the most that can be levied through taxes will be about $7.2 million. To make up the difference, the cash balance in December will be used.
Flecker noted he was not being very specific and “a lot of meat and potatoes” goes into a budget each year.
Dr. Steve Troyer, superintendent, also spoke about the budget and said a strength of Wawasee’s budget is more money per student goes into the classroom compared to several surrounding school districts. Wawasee also has higher average teacher pay than nearby districts, but has several teachers who are at the top of the teacher pay scale.
He noted more needs to be done for newer teachers and Wawasee has work to do to provide the $40,000 required as a minimum salary for new teachers due to a new state law. Currently Wawasee is at paying $37,500 for new teachers.
Several cost cutting measures have been taken in the last few years including installing solar panels, which has reduced the electric bill by $400,000 in two years. Several classified employee positions have been cut. Classified employee positions are typically non-teaching ones such as custodial, bus drivers, food service, clerical and others.
The administrative team has been reduced by four and no tax anticipation warrants, essentially short term loans, have been requested in 2021. Field trips have been reduced and some classes or programs have been eliminated such as orchestra, French at the high school, Geometry in Construction at the high school and others.
Troyer said a budget priority is to bring up new teacher salaries, as well as increasing and maintaining a healthy cash balance and reducing health insurance costs among other priorities.
The board also approved readopting the teacher appreciation grants in the same manner as the last two years.
School Board Vacancy
Board member Mary Lou Dixon will be leaving at the end of October. Applications will be accepted beginning Sept. 1 until noon Tuesday, Sept. 14, on the school corporation website, www.wawasee.k12.in.us.
Applications will then be reviewed by the school board and a candidate forum is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Wawasee High School auditorium, though a time has not been announced yet.