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NH property tax rate increases

Rates 'articially' lower last year

April 21, 2010
Many property owners in the North Harrison Community School Corp. have been caught off guard when seeing their property tax bills, which began arriving earlier this month. The bills, for 2009 payable 2010, have increased, mostly due to the school portion of the tax rate. However, the increase was not due to the Morgan Elementary School renovation project.

John Roeder, superintendent at North Harrison, has been fielding phone calls about the increase and took time at the April 8 school board meeting to explain the circumstances that caused the tax rate to jump from 87 cents to $1.50 per $100 of assessed value.

Roeder, who was hired Jan. 5, said a "mistake" in 2009 in the bus replacement fund, along with an additional $660,000 in the debt service fund, caused the tax rate, which has fluctuated the past several years between $1.30 and $1.44, to be lowered by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to 87 cents. The $660,000 was for a payment the school corporation received from the county's riverboat funds that was not applied correctly.

He called this year's $1.50 tax rate "a big increase" but one that's "not too much above what it was" prior to 2009.

"Last year's tax rate was artificially low," Roeder said while asking those in attendance to help inform others about the increase or to direct them to contact him for an explanation.

Gary Byrne, the board's president, said he was "very upset" when he found out that last year's tax rate had been erroneously reduced to 87 cents.

"I feel responsible" for the error, he said.

Trustee Michael Beyerle said he would not have supported approving additional funds for the bus replacement plan this year if he had known the tax rates would increase so much.

Additional funds above the $410,000 per each of the past several years were added to help with the shortfall the school system will feel this year.

In a telephone interview April 13, Roeder referred to the situation with property taxes as a "challenging time," with the statewide reassessment and the General Fund being moved from school corporations to the state fund.

However, he said the school board will have "better control" when working on next year's budget and will look at ways to help lower the tax rate.

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved, for North Harrison High School, the drug testing policy, the revised student-athlete handbook and the student handbook for the 2010-11 school year.

NHHS Principal Kelly Simpson said money to operate the drug-testing program initially will come from a $10 fee paid by student drivers. Approximately 300 students drive to school, he said. "I don't intend for (the fee) to be a cash cow," Simpson said.

Beyerle said he didn't realize the school corporation was looking for ways to fund the program.

"I thought we had funding, period," he said.

As Steve Hatton, assistant principal at NHHS, was talking about changes to the student handbook, specifically with regard to cellular phones, the audience chuckled as MES Principal Lance Richards' cell phone rang as if on cue.

The trustees also ap-proved, 3-2 (Bobby Chinn and Fred Naegele against), a change order for the MES project. At an additional cost of $20,912.50, 17 urinals yet to be installed will be regular ones instead of the waterless model originally bid.

Of the total 25 urinals in the building, eight that have already been installed are waterless and will remain in place.

The school board also directed John Hawkins of Kovert Hawkins architects to explore the possibility of using a newly designed valve that uses 1/4 of a gallon of water per flush compared to the standard valves, which use 1 gallon of water for each flush.

Hawkins said the change order is the first on the MES project that uses money in the contingency fund.

Naegele said he voted against the change order because he was "part of the board" that adopted a long-term energy savings plan several years ago.

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