Carmel Board of Ed Reduces Tax Levy, Trims Over $1M From Budget 

The Carmel Board of Education has agreed to trim more than $1 million from the school budget as the district looks to place a second plan up for a vote in two weeks after its original proposal was defeated last month.

Superintendent of Schools Mary-Margaret Zehr presented trustees last week with three budget scenarios that reduced the tax levy and made various cuts to services, supplies and positions. Board members agreed to move forward with a proposed $132,507,952 budget that reduced spending by $1,073,414.

The newly proposed budget, which is scheduled for adoption during Tuesday’s meeting, carries a tax levy increase of .60 percent.

“I know that we’re sitting here talking in theocraticals in a budget that’s an actual but putting in out there right now there’s a lot of moving pieces to this,” Trustee Eric Mittelstadt said at the May 25 meeting. “I hope everyone knows we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

During the May 18 election, Carmel’s proposed $133,581,366 budget was defeated in a 1,296 to 1,125 vote. The budget carried a tax levy increase of 1.69 percent and sought to maintain academic programs and services that benefited the needs of the students and taxpayers, school officials said.

Now the board is required to place a new budget up for a vote on June 15. However, if the reduced proposal is voted down a second time, a contingency plan with even more cuts to the district must then be approved.

The current proposal, while subject to change before Tuesday’s adoption, will see a $256,000 spending reduction in bus refurbishments. Officials say the district was intending on replacing four busses within its fleet, but the new proposal will seek to only replace two.

There will be a 10 percent, or $195,372, reduction in supplies, $235,000 decreased from transfer to capital, $61,200 trimmed from equipment and a $187,075 savings on retirement, with breakage on one teacher, two teaching assistants and one nurse.

Furthermore, an elementary school position that was subject to retirement this year won’t be replaced, a savings of $73,595.

“That was a goal, rather than cutting staff who are currently employed as a way to look at staff as they retire in looking at each position to see if that is needed based on class size and enrollments,” Zehr said.

However, despite an agreement among officials to not fill retired positions within the district, board members took issue with cutting an elementary position as class sizes continue to increase as in-person learning returns to normal.

Trustee Matt Vanacoro said he was in favor of the current proposal but only if the elementary teaching position is returned to the budget.

“I do not think that the elementary parents in that constituency are going to like that we’re going to increase class sizes after COVID,” he said. “This (budget) needs to pass, and I think we need to show that we’re making the largest effort we can to reduce the tax levy to the smallest amount that we can and reducing it by a full percentage is a pretty big statement.”

The remaining $65,172 slashed in the budget from technology professional development, summer compensatory services and summer school programs at Carmel High School will be moved to federal stimulus funding, officials said.

After the budget is adopted on Tuesday, officials will schedule a public hearing for June 8 and hold budget presentations with question and answers from June 9 to June 15.