HANCOCK COUNTY — County school boards are in the process of approving multi-million budgets for the 2023 school year.

Each school district operates from three main funds within the total budget — the education, operations and debt services funds. Some districts include other funds in their budgets depending on monies allotted for the rainy day fund, school pension debt funds or referendum monies.

Once the funds are approved by the respective boards, the figures will be sent to the state, which will approve the monies to be spent for the 2023 school year, although sometimes the figures are different from what districts submit, area officials noted.

The Mt. Vernon school district will submit a total $70.2 million budget; Greenfield-Central will submit a $58.2 million budget; Southern Hancock will submit a $44.5 million budget while Eastern Hancock will submit a $16.8 million budget.

Mt. Vernon’s proposed education fund went up by nearly $2.37 million this year, increasing from $30.8 to $33.2 million officials said.

Assistant Superintendent Chris Smedley said Mt. Vernon schools should be able to maintain its tax rate due to an increased total valuation for 2023, which came in at $1.734 billion.

“Obviously that helps us maintain a steady tax rate as that (assessed valuation) goes up,” he said. “It looks like there’s a very, very slight decrease in the overall tax rate base, but it looks like our operations rate is going to go down just a little bit … So everything will remain pretty much level since they have an inverse relationship.”

Greenfield-Central’s business director, Nate Day, said his district’s budget and assessed value are both expected to increase this year.

“We’re advertising a budget that’s very similar to last year but includes some adjustments as we’re dealing with inflation of fuel prices and everything else,” he said. “We continue to be at or better than our projections. We’re going to end the year with a healthy cash balance but, most importantly, we continue to support robust and high quality education options for all our students.”

The school system continues to expand its special education and vocational learning programs, he said, while recruiting and retaining high quality teachers by offering $3,000 raises across the board for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.

“We’re making sure there’s opportunities for all kids to find their niche and get the education that helps them be prepared for going on to college or moving into the workforce,” Day said.

Greenfield-Central High School’s upcoming multi-million dollar auditorium and natatorium project won’t factor into the upcoming budget.

“It does not impact the budget in terms of operation or education, which is what we spend a lot of time talking about,” said Day. “It is paid for by bonds and will come out of the debt service fund, but as we’ve said over the last four years, we’re committed to keeping our debt service tax rate at or below 55.2 cents.”

Officials with Southern Hancock noted the increase of students this year will increase the budget. Their education fund is the largest fund at $26.3 million. However, superintendent Lisa Lantrip noted, due to community wealth, the influx of federal dollars continues to go down.

“Due to the lack of poverty in our area, all those Title 1 and federal funds continue to decrease dramatically,” Lantrip said. “All of those federal dollars are based on community poverty levels in the school district.”

Title 1 is the nation’s oldest and largest federally funded program, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Annually, it provides over $7 billion to school systems across the country for students at risk of failure and living at or near poverty.

Lantrip noted the debt services fund, $7.3 million, pays for district bonds.

“It’s like paying the district’s mortgage, with the funds coming from district property taxes,” Lantrip said.

The operation funds, $10.9 million, is used for the basic operating of the school district. Lantrip noted that includes transportation, maintenance and grounds as well as the district’s business office.

“All the people that are used to keep the corporation going, like the over $3 million we use just for custodians that comes out of the operations budget,” Lantrip said. “There are a lot of folks needed to run a school corporation.”

The largest fund, the education fund is used to educate the students, such as teacher salaries, classroom materials, supplies, etc.

“We set the budget and advertise the budget so people can see it, but when it comes right down to the budget, the state determines how much money we will get from those property taxes,” Lantrip said.

Adam Kinder, director of business and operations for Eastern Hancock, noted the reason their budget is so much lower than other county school districts is due to the fact they have fewer students and only having one main campus to maintain.

“We have a lot of efficiencies operating under one roof just from a heating and cooling standpoint,” Kinder said. “We have a boiler system that heats our whole campus, so we don’t have multiple different systems and we have just the one electric bill for the whole campus.”

Eastern Hancock is able to estimate adding $600,000 to its rainy day fund in the projected budget while its education fund is the highest fund at $8.5 million.

“It’s a pretty status quo kind of year for us,” Kinder said. “Our goal for our school board is to maintain a constant debt level which we have done.”

They are anticipating a 4% increase in their education fund per student, as are the other districts. The operation fund will work with an allowable increase from the state as well.

“The other thing that is kind of different for our district is we don’t have a stoplight here so we do have a lot of square miles giving us a good tax base,” Kinder said. “We have three of nine townships, Blue River, Jackson and Brown in the county supporting our district.”

District boards are expected to approve the budgets in late October. The funds are then expected to be approved by the state for spending starting at the start of the new year in January.

Hancock County School district budgets for 2023

Mt. Vernon

Referendum: $3.66 million

Rainy Day Fund: $2 million

Debt Service Fund: $21.7 million

School Pension Debt Fund: $239,000

Education Fund: $31.5 million

Operations Fund: $11.04 million

Totals: $70.21 million


Rainy Day Fund: $750,000

Debt Service Fund: $10.73 million

Education Fund: $31.52 million

Operations Fund: $15.26 million

Totals: $58.26 million

Southern Hancock

Debt Services: $7.3 million

Education Fund: $26.3 million

Operations Fund: $10.9 million

Totals: $44.54 million

Eastern Hancock

Rainy Day Fund: $600,000

Debt Service Fund: $1.53 million

Education Fund: $8.65 million

Operations Fund: $6.084 million

Total: $16.86 million