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Crawford Circuit Court Judge K. Lynn Lopp, left, swears in new Crawford County Community School Corp. Board member Lee Holzbog, center, and second-term members Debbie Kaiser and Tim Jellison. (Chris Adams)

Crawford School Corp. to advertise $18-M budget

July 23, 2008
The Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees welcomed new member Lee Holzbog last Tuesday night by first swearing him in and then throwing him into the collective budget fire.

The trustees, meeting at the Administration Building near Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, conducted the first phase of passing a new budget, conducting the annual budget workshop.

Debbie Jones, the new corporation business manager, briefly outlined the proposed budget, including the $12.8-million General Fund.

Jones, as well as Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge, explained to the audience, the board and Holzbog, who also served as a trustee in the 1980s, that what will be advertised will undoubtedly be higher than what the state approves.

"What we advertise isn't what our budget will be," she said, guessing the General Fund will actually be about $1.5 million less.

It's common for school corporations to advertise high on their budgets because the state, when it reviews them, almost always makes cuts.

Other key aspects of the approximately $18.5-million budget include a $1.7-million Debt Service Fund, $1.4-million Capital Projects Fund and $1.8-Transportation Fund.

This year's budget is different — and somewhat confusing — to school officials because the State Legislature earlier this year passed a 1-percent sales tax increase so that the General Fund and the Special Education Preschool Fund ($75,257 in Crawford County's budget) will no longer be paid for in part by property taxes but funded solely by the state.

How that will affect school corporations throughout the state remains unclear, and lawmakers admit their may be bugs to be worked out.

One fund that wasn't picked up by the state that will negatively affect corporations is the Transportation Fund. As crude oil and gas prices have risen, bus drivers and corporations have been hit hard financially.

Also, with the economy in a state of flux, Eastridge admitted he is worried that the 1-percent sales tax increase may not generate enough income to offset the loss of property tax dollars.

"We have no idea where the fuel costs are going," Eastridge said, noting the oil costs.

Other things that could adversely affect the budget, he explained, include increasing health insurance costs, whether or not the Crawford County Council reinstates gaming revenue used to reduce the debt service tax levy, and the need for interior renovations at CCJSHS. While the exterior has been upgraded at a debt of $1.7 million, the corporation still managed to retire $3 million in debt, he said.

"I think that's very good," Eastridge said.

The board voted 7-0 to advertise the budget and is expected to adopt it following a public hearing later at an upcoming meeting.

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