When the Mt. Vernon community passed the referendum back in May 2014, no one guessed that Mt. Vernon Community Schools would have a positive General Fund balance in just over a year, which previously had a $3.6 million deficit.
School budgets are quite complex, as well as the state funding formula that greatly impacts the budget. School budgets are best simplified as one budget having several individual funds within. These individual funds have specific parameters set by Indiana law which dictate the income and what each fund can or can’t be used for. Over the years, several of MVCSC’s funds have been healthy; however, the General Fund has had a deficit for many years which necessitated the previous staff cuts.
Eliminating the General Fund Deficit – Part One- Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation (MVCSC) received their first tax draw of referendum dollars in June 2015. These dollars were immediately used to cover General Fund expenses from the beginning of the year. The referendum dollars were dictated by the legal verbiage to be used for salary and benefits, which is paid largely from the General Fund.
Eliminating the General Fund Deficit – Part Two- To finish eliminating the General Fund deficit, MVCSC received approval from the board in 2014 for the General Fund to borrow $3 million from the Rainy Day Fund. The Rainy Day Fund is intended as a safety net to fund any catastrophic liability issues. MVCSC will continue to pay back the Rainy Day Fund in the subsequent years.
With the General Fund now operating in the black, MVCSC anticipates staying there. This will be done by seeking competitive bids on projects, maximizing use of the facilities to generate revenue, and maintaining energy conservation efforts. With the increasing student enrollment and the new favorable funding formula from the state, MVCSC is keeping funds stable while focusing on facility and staff improvements that weren’t able to be addressed in previous years.
MVCSC has made many improvements in recent months. The 1:1 Initiative (one computer device per each student/staff) is funded from book rental fees and a technology lease paid from the Capitol Projects Fund.
The Capitol Projects Fund was also utilized for the recent facility upgrades and landscaping improvements. The Capitol Projects Fund receives its income from property taxes which are capped at 1% for residential, 2% for agriculture and 3% for corporations.
Mt. Vernon Schools also recently revoked the “pay-to-participate” fees for athletics and clubs. This income will be replaced by facility rental, sponsorships and corporate partnerships.
MVCSC strives to be fiscally transparent and a steward of educating the public on how school funds are received and utilized. Superintendent Dr. Robbins states, “I have had the opportunity to work in districts with declining funding over the years. By being innovative, those districts were able to maintain a healthy General Fund cash balance while at the same time maximizing opportunities. Those initiatives will improve facilities and provide academic initiatives for staff and students. That is exactly what we intend on doing at MVCSC.”
For additional information on school budgets, the business department page (listed on www.mvcsc.k12.in.us under “Departments”) showcases two StateImpact Indiana videos to help explain the complexity.