ELKHART — What would you do if you lost 68 percent of your paycheck?
That’s what’s happening to Concord Community Schools. Like other public school districts in the state, Concord relies on property taxes to feed five out of six funds — debt service, pension debt, capital projects, transportation and bus replacement.
But now, as a result of property tax caps — also known as the circuit breaker — Concord is hemorrhaging money from these funds. The district has lost more than $10 million over the past three years, and stands to lose 68 percent of property tax revenue in 2014.
Concord superintendent Wayne Stubbs said that the district is the eighth most impacted by property tax cap losses in Indiana.
But he is hopeful that the school can survive.
“With some help, we are going to come out of this,” Stubbs said. “Right now, more than anything else, we are just trying to get people the facts. It’s not something where we haven’t done a good job taking care of the monies that are given to Concord Community Schools.”
The Mary Kay model
Stubbs said he’s been meeting with people in the community to explain some of Concord’s financial hardship.
“I’ve kind of approached it like the Mary Kay model,” he said. “I’ve gone to quite a few key people in the community who I know, and asked them to put together a group of two or three other couples and meet with me. They’ve given me their thoughts, and they’ve asked lots of questions.”
He gives a presentation that takes about an hour, then hands people fact sheets detailing some of the issues. Stubbs hopes that those people then pass the information on to their circle of friends and family, and so on.
“It’s really a grass-roots approach of trying to make sure our community is aware of the struggles we have,” he said. “People are shocked at how much the district is losing.”
Not against the tax cap
Stubbs said that he’s just like any other taxpayer — he doesn’t want his property taxes to spike either.
“It’s not an issue of, we are against the tax cap,” he said. “It’s just that there were unintended consequences as a result of the tax cap. And now we are seeing firsthand what that impact is.”
He said that Concord is more affected than some other school districts because the cities of Elkhart and Goshen are both part of its tax base. The amount of money collected in property taxes goes to support not only the school, but also the cities, the county, townships and libraries in the area.
Also, Concord has little farm land or industrial property — the kinds of properties that are capped at 2 or 3 percent rather than 1 percent.
What can be done?
“What can people do? Nothing else. I just want them to understand when they hear the decisions we are making,” Stubbs said. “We are not crazy. We just have to deal with the realities.”
If you’d like to hear more about Concord’s plan to deal with property tax cap losses, or if you are part of a group that’s interested in hearing Stubbs’ presentation, contact him at 574-875-5161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s been lost?
Here is some of what Concord has cut to save money:
Delayed computer replacements
Halted movement toward 1:1 computer initiative
Eliminated installation of SMART boards
Eliminated corporation-funded field trips
Canceled 2013 K-6 summer school
Did not replace six retired teachers at the end of the 2012-13 school year, resulting in increased class sizes
Eliminated technology positions
Delayed purchasing new buses
Froze building project expenditures except for emergency needs
Eliminated building budgets
Adjusted length and time of school day to accommodate transportation adjustments
Increased distance between homes and bus stops