Schools appear safe from consolidation

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By The Staff

We’re happy to see Perry County’s schools are unlikely to be affected by an effort to consolidate Indiana’s schools, and suggest such attempts elsewhere be put off for at least a year.

As we reported at the beginning of this year, the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform produced a 46-page report urging a number of changes, including the consolidation of school systems to achieve student populations of at least 2,000.

Daniels announced Dec. 19 he wants to press forward toward that and other goals in the 2009 legislative session, but said only schools with fewer than 1,000 students should be combined.

That appears to spare Perry County school corporations from the upheaval any consolidation would bring. The Tell City-Troy Township enrollment is pegged at 1,568, according to the Indiana Department of Education, and Perry Central Community School has 1,163 students. We assume those schools’ surpassing the new threshold render Cannelton’s 294 students safe from disruption.

We’re not against the idea of combining administrations, and have said in this space previously any idea that might improve efficiency and reduce cost should be open to examination. But this isn’t a good time.

As Indiana enters the new year, its schools will have to cope with a new funding system whose feasibility remains to be seen. In what was billed as an effort to relieve the burden of property-taxpayers, the state’s sales tax was bumped a penny and the state opted to take on many of the bills formerly shouldered by counties. Among them were a significant portion of school corporations’ expenses.

That occurred before incompetence at very high levels of American commerce was revealed, and before its results began spreading across the nation. When the automotive industry screeches to a halt, or when the doors of home or business financing slam shut, we feel it in Perry County.

As bad as things have become, experts say we’ve only seen the tip of the problem so far.

Will the state be able to afford the fiscal burden it has taken on? Will sales taxes, reduced by the economic slowdown, and what’s left of property taxes, generate the revenue needed to fulfill promises our legislators made when they enacted House Enrolled Act 1001? Local officials aren’t so sure.

Perry County’s school systems, like others throughout the state, have endured uncertain financing in the system they’re just leaving behind. State and county payments were delayed due, in part, to changes such as those in property assessments. Legislation behind such changes is always billed as improvement, but always seems to be rushed into place. Change in itself brings expense and struggles to comply. Rushed changes multiply costs and difficulties.

We’re certain those most affected could use a break.

State House Speaker Patrick Bauer said in response to Daniels’ Dec. 19 announcement the state has other more pressing priorities, such as the state economy and passing a state budget. We agree.

Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.

Your view: Tell us what you think. E-mail us at editor@perrycountynews.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.