In 2012, the legislature passed House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1072. Immediate implementation would have devastated local transportation funding in a majority of Indiana school districts. Fifty districts would not have been able to transport students due to a lack of funds. Westfield Washington Schools (WWS) is one of those 50 districts. In 2013, implementation of HEA 1072 was delayed until 2014. Subsequently, Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 517, also addressing transportation, delayed implementation and moved the matter to summer study.
Locally, WWS lowered our tax rate in 2013, provided transportation to students, and paid all of our debt. We will do the same thing in 2014. We presently lose 19% of our funds in transportation from the impact of the tax caps. This does not prevent us from transporting our students. If HEA 1072 is not changed, it will cause us to lose 91% of the funds in transportation and we cannot operate transportation with that loss. Even with a planned lowering of the overall tax rate in the next budget cycle, we would still have enough money to transfer from other funds to cover transportation. HEA 1072 prevents that.
In 2012, legislation required schools to transport children, but allowed relief of this requirement with a three year advance notification. This is now Indiana Code 20-27-13-3(1). The WWS Board of School Trustees has passed Resolution 2013-11 giving the three year notice. This is simply to protect us in case corrective legislation has not passed.
The Senate will be holding meetings this fall to draft legislation dealing with this issue. If it appears we are heading toward a negative outcome for the school district, I will be asking our patrons to contact legislators. Outside of corrective action relieving us from the legislation, we would be left with two choices:
- Lay off staff to provide the funds for transportation, or
- Ask citizens to pass an operating referendum for transportation.
Since our mission is educating children, not transporting them, item number one seems a poor choice. To require an additional tax burden on citizens who already send high amounts of income and sales tax to the state, plus have already passed an operating referendum for instruction because of low state support, seems ludicrous.
Right now, I just want you to be aware of the problem. However, I may need your help to contact legislators if the outcome appears to be negative.