S.G. Wright, Herald Journal Correspondent

BROOKSTON — The Frontier School Corporation School Board voted in favor of submitting an Operating Referendum to be voted on the May ballot in White County.

The board approved the following question for the ballot:

“For the eight (8) calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the Frontier School Corporation impose a property tax rate not to exceed twenty-one cents on $100 of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other taxes imposed by the school corporation for the purpose of funding academic and educationally related programs, managing class sizes and attracting and retaining teacher?

The resolution passed 4-0, with one member out of town.

Due to the inadequate funding from the state, Frontier School Corporation felt the referendum was the tool to help attract talent to Frontier schools, Superintendent Dan Sichting said.

The school funding formula was originally based on property tax values; the current funding formula is based on three sources: income tax, sales tax and gaming taxes. The new formula is comparably more unstable beginning in 2019, as economic changes affect incomes as well as money available for big purchases and gaming.

Sichting said the changes in the school funding formula stem from a lawsuit in St. John in 2008 requiring the state recalculate how property taxes were determined. The taxes had been redone in the early 2000s, but by 2008 the tax plan was putting a burden on homeowners as well as other members of the taxing system.

School budgets had functioned with a four-part accounting system; general, capital projects, debt service and transportation, and now there are only two funds; operations and debt service.

Education funding occupies 85 percent of the operations fund and 15 percent covers maintenance, gas, non-teacher salaries; however, Sichting said the debt service fund will be decreasing in 2021 as mortgages and obligations are paid off. Thus, the operations referendum will extend the current tax dollar distribution without adding any additional burden to the taxpayers in the Frontier School Corporation boundaries.

It was discussed and emphasized that the maximum valuation on homeowners would not exceed the 21 cents per $100 valuation.

Board members Steve Christopher and Andie Mears said the referendum would then get Frontier competitive in terms of teacher salaries.

“We owe it to the kids to get the best we can for their education,” Christopher added.

Other business discussed at the meeting included firming this year’s graduation date, as the current last day of school is May 24, depending weather events.

High school principal Jeff Hettinger said he has sent an email to the senior students’ families and the consensus of responses are to keep graduation on May 25. Sichting and the board supported that decision.

Kindergarten Round-up is approaching on March 19 to help communicate with patrons and families in the district. Sichting has designed post cards and brochures with Kidder Media to help inform the community of what Frontier has to offer educationally. The board approved the cost for these materials at $6,490.

Frontier’s low per-pupil funding also affects teacher benefits.

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