Richmond Community Schools officials and consultants are seeking ways the district can maximize revenue as significant costly facility needs loom, while minimizing the impact on taxpayers.
During the RCS work session and board meetings of Jan. 10 and 24, which lasted about 8 hours total, some discussions centered around debt issuance, aging buildings, tax base analysis and property revenue projections. Federal pandemic relief grants are ending.
Jamie Bolser, RCS’ chief finance officer, said a multiyear fix is needed.
Bolser showed that RCS has the lowest overall tax rate and debt tax rate in Wayne County and North Central Conference. RCS’ rates are also among the lowest if not the lowest in Indiana.
Bolser said that RCS is financially stable, but when compared with other districts, it’s well behind in terms of available resources coming in.
RCS is in Indiana’s top percentile for the percentage of levy lost to circuit breaker tax caps. The district’s circuit breaker loss per student is $797. Nearly 90% of incorporated Richmond and Spring Grove property owners are at the rate cap.
And, with some large nonprofits in town, including Reid Health, Earlham College and Indiana University East, nearly $275 million of land is tax-exempt.
With a surge in operational costs and a state-capped operations fund levy growth of 4%, Bolser said many schools are considering other options to increase their operations fund revenue and/or shift expenditures out of the operations fund.
Two methods RCS began considering are a transportation levy appeal and raising its debt service rate to offset the operations fund to keep more state tuition grant funds in the education fund.
Consultants from Policy Analytics LLC offered five property tax scenarios, with three of those options including issuing $15, $20 or $30 million in debt. The other two are fixed debt service levy or fixed debt service rate after 2024.
The board unanimously approved moving forward with debt issuance with a $20 million cap.
Superintendent Curtis Wright said the majority of RCS’ taxpayers won’t see an increase in their bills and it would be minimal for those who do.
In other business
- No one spoke during a public hearing on Wright’s proposed new contract.
- Indiana Department of Education granted RCS a waiver for the day students were dismissed early for an extended power outage.
- Bolser reported that all applied skills paraprofessional positions are full at RHS for the first time since the pandemic, and midyear science and special education teaching positions at Dennis and Test drew multiple candidates.
- Agreements have been approved with Sprinturf for new Lyboult Field turf and Phase II Trust Based Relational Interventions consulting at elementaries, Community Youth Services and Hibberd for $56,565. RHS, Dennis and Test leaders provided insights about TBRI’s implementation.
- RCS will seek bidders for summer construction at Fairview Elementary (structural repairs) and a roof replacement and heating/cooling unit in the art/TV/radio area, all at RHS.
- With a 5-1 vote, Brad Walton became the board’s new president after Nicole Stults declined that position this year because of time constraints. John Weber voted no. Kristen Brunton was unanimously elected vice president. Stults and Peter Zaleski were nominated for secretary; after a tied vote, Stults was later selected.
- The board’s next work session is at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the administration building, 300 Hub Etchison Parkway, Richmond.
A version of this article appeared in the January 31 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.