A committee tasked with helping the state figure out how to keep a better watch on schools’ fiscal health heard from school leaders and officials Thursday, as the group comes up with a list of factors to monitor.
Lawmakers passed a controversial school financial management bill earlier this year, and part of it requires a committee to create a list of risk factors for the state to watch, in order to protect more schools from fiscal distress.
At a meeting focused on the group’s “nearly final” plan, school officials gave the committee feedback on a proposed draft of about 20 indicators. Many say the list should be reduced to no more than five, targeted indicators.
Committee chair and Distressed Unit Appeal Board executive director Courtney Schaafsma says the current list is a big change from the 70 items the group first came up with.
“Our committee goal has always been to get to a lower number – around 10 is the number that I think I had in my head – but we heard a number of comments today saying perhaps even fewer than that would be appropriate,” she says.
Others at the meeting mentioned the importance of looking at a school’s tax base, and the impact of property tax caps.
Marion Community Schools Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs and CFO Bob Schultz says they’ve played a major role in school budgets.
“Because that is a serious burden for many school corporations, not all, but for some it’s a tremendous impact that we have to plan for,” he says.
Schaafsma says the committee has discussed the caps before, and includes them partly in some indicators.
She says she’s more concerned with what schools do with existing revenue, but will likely discuss the caps again at the committee’s meeting next week when it finalizes the indicators it will present to the State Budget Committee next month.