WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– The Vigo County School Board voted to approve the 2024 budget on Monday, an expected end to months of discussions.
Following the unanimous vote, board president Amy Lore said she was happy to reach the end of a long journey– one that started back in the spring.
“We’re very proud of our business office, and everyone here who’s contributed to keeping our costs in check,” she said. “I’m very proud of having a budget that’s very much in line with previous years when I’ve been on the board, and that’s happening in times our costs are skyrocketing because of inflation, but our budget, the big number at the end, is consistent with previous years.”
The projected number is just under $166 million– about three million less than 2023– and VCSC superintendent Chris Himsel said it marks the start of a new chapter to use these dollars to better the corporation.
“As you saw from the capital projects plan we put together, we’re obviously not only looking at what are the projects for next year, but the year after and the year after that. Obviously when we’re talking two or three years out, those are tentative, if we have some things that happen in the next year, we’ll move those projects up higher on the priority list,” he said.
Himsel also offered his thoughts on the corporation’s financial standing in a broader sense, as he said he believes they are in “good financial shape” following decisions to close several schools over the past few years.
“The adjustments that were made accomplished what the adjustments were supposed to do,” he said. “The adjustments have not been put to a point where we can go back to restore things and do things like that, but they accomplished what they were intended to do which is to put us on more stable footing.”
VCSC officials are continuing to work on HVAC upgrades at all three high schools next year, as well as revisiting a facilities study to help the corporation seek out what the long-term needs are.
He said these more significant projects are always harder for corporations to pursue.
“I think it is also important to recognize and to know, Indiana has become a referendum state. This is going to become the norm you’re going to see in districts all across the state. We have basically a history, since about my entire time as a superintendent, where even with these significant increases from the state government to support the state basic grant, we are still struggling to keep up with inflationary costs,” he said.
“Basically the realities of funding from the state of Indiana, making the decision to remove the general fund off of the property tax rolls so that’s not supported through the typical property tax levy. All those things are factors that created this condition, that’s where we’re at,” he said.
This isn’t anything new– Himsel said these are the same things he faced during his previous stint as a superintendent– and he credited state legislators for increasing the funding per student.
“We’re very appreciative of the increase in per student funding from the state of Indiana. And that is going to allow us to have some conversations with our employee groups, which we hope to get conclusion on here very shortly, and be able to have some other announcements here in the next few weeks,” he said.
With Monday’s vote, the budget now goes to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, which will make any necessary changes as well as setting the tax rates. Himsel said with recent information the corporation received, he is confident the tax rate will stay consistent with past years.