Check this page often for updates as West Lafayette schools receives new questions and posts the answers here.
Q. What happens if the referendum is approved?
If the existing school referendum levy of $0.37 per $100 of property value is approved, revenue would be used to retain and attract teachers and staff, fund academic programming, and provide needed operating expenditures. It would Support Teaching by providing for teacher and staff compensation for managing class sizes and academic programming and it would Support Learning by providing Operation Fund expenditures for maintenance personnel and student transportation.
Q. How does West Lafayette compare to neighboring school districts for the amount of per pupil state revenue?
West Lafayette - $6,470 per pupil
Tippecanoe - $7,308
Benton - $7,467
Lafayette - $7,766
Does the funding that WLCSC received from the federal government to address the COVID-19 pandemic affect the levy?
WLCSC used Federal COVID funding to preserve critical services for students during the pandemic and accelerate learning recovery afterward. All COVID funds have been allocated and, according to Federal law, must be expended by September, 2024. As a result, those funds are not a resource for continuing support for the mission of WLCSC.
Is the district financially responsible?
We believe we are. As an example, WLCSC has an Underlying Rating of “A+” for Credit Program from Standard and Poors, which indicates the district’s strong credit-worthiness.
Q. What happens if the referendum is not approved?
If the referendum is not approved, the district could place a question on the November 2024 ballot to renew the referendum as the current authorization does not expire until the end of next year. Or the district could choose to reduce its budget by $7 million, the equivalent of more than 70 staff positions. Key stakeholders would be called together to engage in a process to decide what decisions would be made to minimize the impact to the classroom. But, reductions of this magnitude will certainly have a significant impact.
Q. Why run the referendum a year before it expires?
Next year is a general election. Candidates will be running for president, congress, the state house, and more. As we all know, the race for president has already begun! We’ll be seeing campaign advertising and lawn signs, and our local, regional and national media will be filled with information about these races. The ability to educate voters about a ballot question in one small district in Indiana will be challenging at best. We chose to run the referendum a year early so we didn’t have to compete with the many candidate messages in a busy general election year.
Does increasing funding for schools have any effect on academic outcomes?
The most rigorous research shows that, as scholars C. Kirabo Jacson and Claudia Persico put it, “there is a strong causal relationship between increased school spending and student achievement.” To read the scholar’s review of that research, please visit https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/pam.22520
Q. How do schools impact the community?
A. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, there is a definite correlation between school expenditures and home values in any given neighborhood. A report titled, “Using Market Valuation to Assess Public School Spending,” found that for every dollar spent on public schools in a community, home values increased $20. These findings indicate that additional school expenditures may benefit everyone in the community, whether or not those residents actually have children in the local public school system.
Questions about the history of the WLCSC Referendum Operating Levy and use of Operating Levy funds
What percent of the current total budget does the current Referendum generated funds cover?
The certified levy of $7,072,079 amounts to 18.1% of the approved budget expenditures for 2023.
Were these current referendum funds used for the stated purpose of the last referendum?
The referendum question in 2017 indicated that funds would be used for funding academic and educationally-related programs, to manage class sizes and to retain teachers. Referendum dollars have significantly funded teachers since 2017 and have allowed us to increase salaries to make us highly competitive compared to other districts. We have also been able to maintain excellent academic programs. Funds have also been used for educationally-related programs to transport students safely to and from school as well as to pay staff who maintain our facilities and classrooms.
How have the current referendum generated funds been used, i.e what specific expenses are covered with these funds?
The funds in 2023 are being used to fund salaries and benefits of approximately 50 teachers across all disciplines. Funds are also being used to pay for educationally-related operations expenditures in custodial/maintenance and transportation, including wages, salaries, benefits and equipment. Expenditures for teachers comprise approximately 60% of the budgeted expenditures in the Referendum Fund and the educationally-related operations expenditures comprise approximately 40% of the budgeted expenditures in the Referendum Fund.
Is an audit of referendum funds required?
Yes, all school corporation funds are audited on a biennial basis by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
Has there been an audit of the current referendum funds?
The most recent audit was completed this past summer for the time period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2021. No issues with the referendum funds were found. In addition to an audit, with new referenda, a Revenue Spending Plan for the Referendum funds will be required to be published as part of the budget annually and will be audited by the State Board of Accounts to ensure that funds are being spent as stated during the biennial audit.
Questions about school district finances
Does the School District or School Board publish an annual budget for public review?
Yes, school corporations are required to publish budgets annually as well as hold a public hearing for these budgets. The budget was posted on Indiana Gateway in August. Documents regarding the September 20th board work session on the budget are available on the school website.
What are the other funding sources that cover the rest of the West Lafayette School budget, i.e. non-referendum funds?
The school corporation receives monthly tuition support payments from the state of Indiana based upon Average Daily Membership Counts in September and February of each year as well as certain grants for special education, honors and vocational counts. This state funding makes up the majority of our Education Fund. During calendar year 2022, the school corporation received $15,483,685 from state tuition support. Other revenue sources in the Education Fund include transfer tuition payments from transfer students from other districts and interest on investments. We also receive funding from property, excise and financial institution taxes in our Operations Fund and Debt Service Fund in which the maximum levies are set by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.
How stable are these other funding sources?
In the Education Fund, we rely most heavily upon state tuition payments and are at the mercy of the state legislature as well as our local student enrollment at all schools. We have seen per student funding increase the past several years and are expecting small increases this year and next year. These increases have not kept up with the rates of inflation on an annual basis. These decisions are made at the biennial budget and total funding relies upon our student counts. Based on our recent demographic survey, we expect student counts to remain consistent over the next decade. Investment income is better some years than others depending upon the interest rate offered at our banking institution and the rates we are able to obtain through CD investments. We structure investments so that we continuously have CDs maturing and available for reinvestment. Transfer tuition depends upon the number of students who are approved to attend West Lafayette Community Schools on an annual basis. We currently have transfer students only from Tippecanoe School Corporation.
In the Operations, while we are able to levy a maximum amount as determined by the Department of Local Government Finance on an annual basis, that amount is subject to circuit breaker loss from property tax caps. For instance, residential properties are capped at 1% of gross assessed value. As an example, a $300,000 house would have a property tax limit of $3,000 (1% of gross assessed value). Let’s say that with all of the combined tax rates of all the different governmental units the actual tax calculated would be $3,500. Because the residence is capped at 1% or $3,000, all governmental units would lose $500 of property tax revenue on a proportionate basis. This is called our circuit breaker loss. West Lafayette Community Schools will lose approximately $1.251 million of property tax revenue due to circuit breaker in 2023.
The Debt Service Fund is a “protected fund,” meaning that we are able to levy the amount needed to make debt service payments plus a carryover amount. We qualify for a waiver from protected taxes so that a proportion of the circuit breaker loss is able to be applied to this fund.
Where can the public review school budget documents?
Budget hearings and public budget documents may be viewed at https://gateway.ifionline.org/ once they are posted under “When Is Your Budget Hearing.” Documents from current and past budgets are also available on the Indiana Public Gateway site under “Search for Reports” link. There is also an abundance of information on governmental unit budgets and tax information at DLGF: Tippecanoe (in.gov)
What percent of the school budget do these sources cover?
Questions about recent facilities improvements
Did the school district borrow funds to complete facilities improvements, and can it borrow more in the future?
The renovations and improvements to buildings during the past decade did not come without great cost. To fund these renovations as well as the new Intermediate building, bonds were sold. These bonds are paid back with interest over time. At the time, bonds were experiencing extremely low interest rates that we were able to lock in and the cost of construction was much less than it is in today’s market.
Currently, the Board has a debt tax rate limit of .5375. We currently levy at that tax rate to pay the debt service payments for these bonds on an annual basis. Typically, as assessed value increases, the tax rate decreases. We are expecting soon to have the ability, all else being equal, to borrow money and keep that tax rate in the Debt Service Fund at .5375.
What were the borrowed funds used for? Were there tactics employed to facilitate more debt without having community input?
Funds were used for:
Does this put the district in a good, bad, horrible or indifferent financial situation?
Having the debt limit of .5375 has made budgeting somewhat complex as we have had to use unused construction funds from the bond sales to fund debt payments to keep the debt service tax rate at .5375. With the increasing assessed values, we anticipate not needing to do this in the near future.
How and why did the Board go down this path?
School buildings are expensive to maintain and update as time goes on. The buildings at the time of the bond sales were in need of updates. It is our priority to maintain our buildings as deferring maintenance and updates typically ends up being more costly in the long-run.
Questions about business vs. residential property taxes
What constitutes a business?
Any commercial property that does not include rental properties. Commercial property has a 3% property tax cap.
Are AirB&Bs considered a business?
They are considered rental property at the 2% property tax cap if it is claimed to be rented full time. If the owner claims to live on the property and only rents out the house partially or only part of the year, the property is considered residential at the 1% property tax cap.
Are Rentals considered a business?
No, rentals are their own tax category. Rentals have a property tax cap of 2%.
If businesses are charged a different percentage increase than residents, what is the basis for that percentage increase?
The referendum rate is applied to all property equally and goes above all property tax caps. However, if the homeowner has filed for a homestead deduction they get the benefit of the $48,000 standard deduction and in 2024 a 40% supplemental deduction. This is not a local decision but, instead, is statutorily determined.