By Monica Cheng
According to Tricia Hackett, vice president of the school board, with the $1.5 million budget cut from 2009 and a $3 million reduction proposal this year due to recession, the Carmel Clay school district has already lost 60 teaching positions and is struggling to hire enough teachers to keep class sizes down, a struggle that is becoming evident in CHS.
On May 4, the Carmel Clay community will vote on the general fund referendum that would increase local sales and income taxes in order to keep up with the deficit and continue to provide students with a quality public school system. That referendum, if it were to pass, would provide Carmel schools with an additional $12 million per year for a total of seven years.
“Every school budget in Indiana is made up of seven different funds to pay for the public school system. Six of them are supported by property and excise taxes,” Hackett said. “The state used to supply dollars to the general fund, the largest and most crucial fund, through local property tax, state sales tax and income tax. But now, the general fund can draw revenue from only state sales and income taxes, both of which may fluctuate depending on the economy.”
According to Hackett, 93 percent of the general fund goes to salary and benefits. The remaining 7 percent goes to supplies and other services.
The $12 million general fund referendum, Hackett said, would pay for the $3 million of cuts proposed in October 2009 by former Superintendent Barbara Underwood as well as the $3.8 million budget cut directed by the Governor Mitch Daniels from January 2010. It would also compensate for the $2 million from the previous referendum, which will run out in 2012, as well as the $3.2 million needed to hire teachers and protect class size and programs.
“If this general operating referendum is passed May 4, 2010, the Carmel Clay School District will receive the funding in calendar year 2011. However, changes can be enacted well before this,” Hackett said in an interview via e-mail.
She also said that much of the current $3 million proposed budget cuts can be almost immediately reversed, beginning with the reinstating of teaching staff into classrooms.
Pete O’Hara, member of the Carmel Clay Education Association (CCEA) and social studies teacher, said he is in favor of the upcoming referendum.
“We want to be able to continue our high academic standards and make sure the kids get everything they deserve,” Pete O’Hara said. “This referendum is a great way for the people of Carmel to support the kids.”
According to Hackett, Carmel is the 10th largest district in the state with the lowest school income tax rate in Hamilton County. Yet, its school system has the fourth-lowest education funding of Indiana.
O’Hara said that even if the referendum were to pass and consequently raise taxes, Carmel’s taxes would still be the lowest in Hamilton County.
“(The referendum) is a worthwhile thing,” O’Hara said. “This is for kids. I don’t think it’s digging so deep in our pockets that it’s going to hurt us as much as it’s going to help us.”