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INDIANA: School directors increase driver's ed fees to help make up shortfall

by on June 10, 2014 11:00 AM

In a step toward closing a half-million-dollar gap in the 2014-15 budget, the Indiana Area School District board agreed Monday to hike the fee for students enrolling in driver education at the senior high school.

Beginning in the fall, the fee will rise from $50 to $200, a move that’s expected to generate about $20,000 more for the district, according to Superintendent Dale Kirsch.

The rate will stay at $50 for students whose family income qualifies them for free or reduced price lunches, and board member Deborah Clawson recommended an awareness campaign to promote the discount opportunity.

Director John Barbor said most families would save enough money on car insurance premiums to cover the higher cost of the program.

Kirsch said driver education costs the district about $700 a student, and that raising the fee by $150 would only bring in $115 because the district would no longer qualify for state reimbursement of $35 per student.

Director Diana Paccapaniccia said the increase would be too steep to be enacted at once.

The board approved the increase on a vote of 7 to 1, with Clawson, Barbor, Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro, Robert Gongaware, Thomas Harley, Brian Petersen and John Uccellini in favor and Paccapaniccia opposed. Hilliary Creely was absent.

In a briefing on the status of the budget, Kirsch told the board the district is on track to run a deficit of $539,560 for the coming year. The district has about $5.3 million in the fund balance and would reduce that to $4.8 million by June 2015.

With two weeks remaining before the board votes to adopt the budget, Kirsch said the state subsidies, including a block grant for the Ready to Learn literacy program and a competitive grant for a hybrid learning program, remain uncertain.

Because the Ready to Learn grant hasn’t been confirmed, the board repealed a February decision to hire two literacy coaches and voted to hire just one for the fourth and fifth grades.

Kirsch also reported there’s still a chance that the state could reduce the required contribution to the retirement fund from 21.4 percent to 19.15 percent of the total payroll. He said that could save the district $265,000.

Looking beyond the new budget year, Kirsch recommended increasing the elementary school class sizes from 20 to 22 students for kindergarten through third grade, and from 25 to 27 students for fourth and fifth grades for 2015-16. That would allow a reduction of three or four teaching positions, he said.

Kirsch also recommended a pay-to-play policy for student athletes and cuts in the number of coaches and advisers for sports teams and after-school activities while maintaining those programs, to help reduce future budget deficits.

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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