Schools chief notes positive budget developments

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Noncertified staff gets 2% raise, treasurer's pay bumped $3,000

CANNELTON - A $1.15 tax rate for Cannelton City Schools next year was among positive notes reported by Schools Superintendent Al Chapman at a regular school-board meeting Tuesday.

He said the rate reflects a decrease of approximately 30 percent from this year, possible because the state is increasing the support it will provide.

In more good news, the corporation's assessed valuation rose from $29.7 million to $30.6 million, Chapman said, saying the change reflected the first increase in seven or eight years.

While upcoming budget numbers are improving, the school system continues to feel the effects of delays resulting from legislative changes to property taxation.

"By this time, normally we would have started getting local revenue from property taxes," Chapman told the board, "but the state just certified those rates Friday ... I'm getting told they may not go out until August."

He said after the meeting state funding is supposed to begin going to schools monthly, alleviating delays of six months or more that have previously sent administrators in search of tax-anticipation loans.

From a cash-flow standpoint, he said, state payments would sometimes not come until May, June or July, and "to operate all those months without that revenue could make it real hard. In addition to getting that money sooner, he said, schools that have had to borrow during the delays won't have to pay the interest that comes with loans.

The superintendent told board members he pulled information about the school system from the state Department of Education's Web site at http://mustang.doe.state.in.us/SEARCH/snapcorp.cfm?corp=6340 and noted expenditures have been going down.

"I thought that was encouraging, to say the least," he said. "I thought it was also interesting to see that our ISTEP scores have been increasing over the last five or six years."

A graph on the first page of Cannelton information shows gains in overall performance on Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress every year but one since the 2000-01 academic year.

On Chapman's recommendation, the board approved for 2008-09 a 2-percent raise for noncertified staff members, the same increase certified members are receiving.

With that recommendation came one to increase the corporation treasurer's salary from $30,000 to $33,000.

"She has been here a year, and I feel that she does a very good job," Chapman said. "This is still not as much as we have been paying our treasurers in the past, but it's, I think, the fair thing to do. It keeps her in line with the other salaries. I don't want to make it sound like anyone else is not important but she has a very responsible job. I just believe she deserves that raise."

"Is that a pay adjustment or a raise?" asked board member Christal Moskos, noting the size of the increase.

"It's a pay raise," Chapman replied, explaining the treasurer's pay "originally was low ... it's still not as much as other treasurers are receiving at other schools in our vicinity."

The board approved that hike, as well.

Chapman thanked everybody who contributed to the past school year.

"I know there was a lot of effort put into it," he said. "I know we've been running a (financially) tight program, and I can't ... honestly say that it's not going to have to continue, but I think there are some encouraging things on the horizon for the school corporation ... we're seeing ways of working out some issues, getting our debts behind us, and I want to continue everybody's efforts at doing that, because it did take everybody's efforts to get where we are."

He said it's sometimes easy to take people for granted, "but they do a lot, and we appreciate their efforts."