SCSC proposes budget for 2021

Seymour Community School Corp.’s 2021 budget doesn’t look much different than its 2020 budget, even with fewer students.

That was the word from corporation business manager Steve Nauman during a recent public hearing for the proposed budget, school bus replacement plan and capital projects fund plan.

No one from the public spoke during the meeting.

The school board will consider adoption of the budget at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 in the Seymour High School cafeteria.

Nauman said the total estimated budget for the district is $52.9 million with $32.7 million for the education fund and $12.7 for the operations fund. Another $4.3 million is budgeted for debt service, $3 million for the rainy day fund and $302,000 for school pension/retirement severance debt.

The district is looking to raise a total of $12 million from local taxes. No local tax dollars support the education fund, as that money comes from state support based on student enrollment.

By state statute, however, the board can move up to 15% of the education money into its operations fund. Seymour has only been transferring 12%, leaving 3% behind.

“Since this has been in place, the corporation has left behind $1 million the last three years, so that’s $3 million that the board has left in the education fund to help with classroom teachers and instructional assistants that really should be over in the operations fund,” Nauman said.

Starting in 2021, any corporation that transfers more than 15% has to be reported to the state.

“It’s important for people to know that you are leaving dollars in education and trying to help get dollars to the classrooms because that’s what the education fund is all about,” Nauman said.

Although he is estimating to raise $7.1 million in local tax support for operations, Nauman said he inflated that amount by $500,000. He is anticipating the actual amount raised to be around $6.6 million.

“All of the risk is on the school corporation,” he said. “There’s no advantage to advertising low or adopting a low tax rate. If you fall short, then that money is just gone. In this day and age, you don’t get any more than you’re entitled to.”

When the board meets in October to adopt the budget, Nauman said the tax rate also will be inflated to protect the corporation.

One area of concern in the budget is that enrollment has not grown this school year.

The 2021 budget was built on enrollment numbers the corporation has not yet reached.

“This is based on 100-some students more than what we have,” Nauman said.

He is hoping by the February student count the corporation will have made up the difference.

“Unless something changes in February, we will not be able to fund 100% of this budget,” he said. “Our enrollment should go up, and we might meet that.”

Since the budget is for a calendar year and not a fiscal year, it relies more on the February student count and the fall count in 2021.

Nauman said he could have reduced the budget to reflect current enrollment numbers, but he believes it will change for the better.

“We’re anticipating to get back on track, and if we reduce the budget, then we would have to do an additional appropriation,” he said.

As of right now, the budget reflects an operating balance in the education fund of $1 million at the end of 2021, but if enrollment does not increase by 100 students, that will not be the case.

“If in fact we don’t get the students we are projecting, we will have no operating balance at the end of 2021,” he said.

The corporation does have a $6 million cash balance in its rainy day fund, however. That money is not collected in taxes but is transferred into the fund by the board.

Half of that is appropriated each year to be used only in the case of an emergency.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Nauman said.

There’s a lot of uncertainty going into the 2021-22 year when it comes to state funding, he added.

“We just have to be prepared,” he said. “As our budget grows, we have to make sure our rainy day fund grows or we are certainly setting ourselves up for failure.”

When it comes to replacing buses, the corporation has to have a 12-year plan but only has to advertise for five years out.

In 2021, the district is planning to purchase four new buses for a total of $505,867. That money comes from the corporation’s operations fund.

Other capital expenses are advertised in the three-year capital projects plan. Only capital projects that are expected to cost more than $10,000 each are included now.

Expenses in the next three years include buses, equipment for the Ag-Science and Research Farm and building upgrades, including replacing carpet and paint, adding playground equipment, renovating sports facilities and replacing roofs, HVAC systems and chillers.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Adoption of the Seymour Community School Corp. 2021 budget

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 13

Where: Seymour High School cafeteria

Who: Open to the public and press