Brownstown outlines school budget for 2021


On a daily basis, three letters are on Jade Peters’ mind: ADM.

The Brownstown Central Community School Corp. assistant superintendent is keeping an eye on the average daily membership, or corporation enrollment, in preparation for the student count in September.

He, however, has heard talk of that possibly moving to December. He also has heard about the possibility of the state using last school year’s ADM to base corporations’ funding for 2021.

In the new school year that’s only two weeks in, Peters has seen Brownstown’s student count go from 1,517 to 1,504 to 1,494.

“It’s going in the wrong direction,” he told Superintendent Tim Taylor and the board of trustees during a 2021 budget workshop Aug. 19 at the administration office.

When this year’s budget was set last year, Peters based that on an ADM of 1,579. The actual ADM was 1,572, but by the February count, the corporation was down to 1,526.

The average of the two came to 1,548, so the new revenue number resulted in a shortfall of $153,867 for this year. Before the drop, the corporation was showing a surplus of nearly $50,000.

“That ADM number really affects us a lot when it comes to our education fund,” Peters said of one of the budget’s two funds.

The education fund consists of pay for teachers, aides and secretaries, school supplies, student-related technology and library expenses, and the state tuition support is based on ADM.

The other fund is operations, which consists of the salaries of administrators and maintenance, transportation and administration office personnel along with transportation, capital projects and utilities.

Peters said based on an ADM of 1,504, the corporation would lose another $87,000.

“It’s almost about $6,200 a kid for us in our formula here,” he said of how much the corporation receives per student.

A big reason the corporation’s enrollment has decreased is because the 2020 graduating class was 146 and the new kindergarten class only has 96 students. Peters projected the kindergarten class to have 111 kids.

Plus, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, parents have either chosen to homeschool their kids or hold their child back from starting school until next year.

“Those are all of the things we’re fighting with,” Peters said.

“It’s really important right now. The game is changing. We really need to up our game and be ready because education is always changing,” Taylor said.

Neither Peters nor Taylor think moving the ADM count is a good idea.

“If they move it back to December, it affects so many things. I haven’t seen the good in it yet, but maybe there is something,” Peters said.

“Rumors were they were going to move it back and maybe get them talked into doing a hold harmless and use our ADM from last year,” he said. “That is a long stretch, too. Ideally, that would be probably our best-case scenario because we are down in ADM, so if they would use last year’s ADM, that would be fantastic because our number would actually be higher than this because of the new formula.”

Delaying the count to December would be a disadvantage for Brownstown if it loses more students, Taylor said.

“With COVID and everything, there’s going to be some jostling around and everything, so I think delaying it is not to our advantage,” he said. “It’s not helping (small) schools like us. I think it hurts us.”

For 2021, Peters plans to request $10,603,687 for the education fund and $4,641,725 for the operations fund.

Earlier this year, he said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he wasn’t going to cut education with the pandemic going on and expected that to be the case when the legislative session resumes in January.

“I know that’s after the election. We don’t know if that’ll happen, but hopefully, they stick to their word and that’s the case because if they start cutting us much more with our ADM going down, we’re going to have some serious concerns,” Peters said.

If the corporation would have another shutdown because of the pandemic, Peters said they may have to hold back on some planned capital projects in 2021.

Those projects include new cages for the softball field, new playground equipment in the front of the building and a padded room at the elementary school; new speakers and dividers in the gymnasium and a new kitchen steamer at the middle school; and expanding the parking lot for sports and auditorium traffic at the high school.

“If we start struggling and we can’t do things, we can maybe cancel a project out if we feel like we’ve got some other major expenses, so we’ll keep an eye on this,” Peters said.

The corporation also plans to replace some buses in 2021. That includes a special education bus for $148,000 and a minibus for $73,000.

Peters said the cost of a bus increased about $10,000 due to adding seat belts.

“So far, we’re getting good reports on seat belts from the bus drivers because it helps on discipline issues, and it’s a good PR move for the safety of our students,” he said. “I think there have been multiple advantages to having seat belts, and it has been a good thing.”

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A public hearing for the 2021-2023 capital projects fund plan and 2021-2025 bus replacement plan will be conducted during the Brownstown Central Community School Corp. board of trustees meeting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the administration office, 608 W. Commerce St., Brownstown. Then at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13, the plans will be up for board approval.

A public hearing for the 2021 budget is set for 8 a.m. Sept. 16 during the Jackson County Council meeting at the courthouse, 111 S. Main St., Brownstown. It’s done through that process because Brownstown has an appointed school board. Then at 6 p.m. Oct. 14, the budget will be up for council approval.

All of the meetings are open to the public and press.