EducationThe Putnam Examiner

Carmel Board of Ed Agrees Not to Use Fund Balance in Budget

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The Carmel Board of Education reached a consensus last week not to allocate any of the district’s fund balance as it continues to grapple with a proposed budget for the 2024-25 school year.

However, the board still hasn’t decided what percentage tax levy increase would be best to present to voters on May 21 with the clock ticking on adopting a budget.

“There is a political reality to presenting a budget to the community,” said Trustee John Curzio. “You can twist numbers into any narrative that you’re trying to sell. It’s going to be very difficult to pass a budget this year.”

For the last two months, the board has been struggling to slice $6 to $10 million from a proposed $151.8 million 2024-25 budget. If no cuts are made, residents would be hit with a 9.5% tax levy hike. Exceeding the tap cap would require at least 60% voter approval.

“There’s no area of this budget where we’re not looking at pain,” remarked Trustee James Wise. “I’m disturbed there doesn’t seem to be any distribution of that pain.”

The board was presented with 19 different scenarios at its April 10 work session from the superintendent of school and the business office regarding program and position cuts and the financial consequences, but board members expressed frustration with having only seen the various alternatives a few hours before the meeting.

“I don’t feel comfortable with these numbers,” said Trustee Melissa Orser. “This work feels impossible. We have to make sure that this school district is going to run and how much that is going to cost. To me, it’s every dollar. It’s not the big-ticket items.”

Trustees have agreed kindergarten, which administrators presented at one time as a potential cut, was not in danger. Sports and extracurricular activities also appear safe at the moment, but could be in jeopardy if the district is forced to operate on a contingency budget.

Eliminating some administrator positions remains on some board member’s radar. Carmel has 171 employees on the payroll that earn more than $150,000 annually.

However, Interim Superintendent of Schools Joseph McGrath expressed some trepidation with reducing administrators.

“I don’t know what that would look like. They’re all very specialized and important,” he said. “We want to be a transparent as we can.”

The board is meeting again April 16 to discuss the budget. If a budget is not adopted at that meeting, the board will have to make a decision on April 23.

One item that will be on the May 21 ballot is an $11.8 million safety and security referendum that the board finalized in late March.

“I’m pleased to report that this bond finally reflects a true safety and security capital project with all unrelated items removed,” Curzio said. “It is money truly well spent on the safety and security of our students, our staff, and our buildings —something that everyone in the community can champion. It should also be noted that this bond will have a tax impact that is beneficial to our taxpayers as less debt is being replaced compared to what is expiring.”


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