Thursday, November 18, 2004

8 Million Dollar South Dearborn Loan

Hidden in the legal ad’s I found a story that should have been front-page news. South Dearborn Community School Corporation is borrowing over eight million dollars to meet operating expenses. This will include $2,141,135 for the debt service fund. Great, money is being borrowed to pay back borrowed money.

This new debt could cost South Dearborn tax payers $260,524 to $521,048. This is the equivalent of five to ten full-time teachers or four to eight new school busses. The cost of this debt is not likely to result in higher taxes. It does result in unacceptable levels of student service.

The financial situation in Dearborn County is out of control. 2003 taxes were collected this summer and watching the legal ad’s, I haven’t found evidence the schools have been paid.

Today is November 11. Yesterday was the typical day for the last tax collection for 2004 property taxes, and we have yet to receive the bill. Do we expect it the week before Christmas or next July? Meanwhile, South Dearborn is borrowing money it anticipates paying back with 2005 tax receipts. When will 2005 tax bills be sent? Will it be February 2006? These fiscal practices are not acceptable. I believe these practices are the result of unqualified individuals having stewardship over financial matters in our community.

Major changes must happen at all levels of Indiana Government. The offices of Treasurer, Auditor and Assessor are not appropriate for elected personnel. Nor are the offices of Surveyor, Coroner, Attorney General, Prosecutor, Judge, Superintendent of Public Education, or Sheriff. These offices ought to be appointed by the executive branch and approved by the legislative branch at each level of government.

At every level of government, including the School Corporation, treasurers and auditors must be certified public accountants with the appropriate college degree. Every appointed official must have the appropriate credentials.

Protecting taxpayers necessitates better oversight in spending. Schools, hospitals, prisons, roads and etc. must meet the needs of those they are intended to serve. As attractive as local control sounds, local boards are often not appropriately qualified and bad decisions are made. For example, the state board of education must be involved in school finance and building projects. After qualified individuals in the Department of Education approve projects and budgets, it is then appropriate to send them back to the local level for approval.

The Department of Local Government Finance ought to be eliminated. Currently, local officials tend to transfer their accountability to that department. How often do we hear “the tax board said we have to spend this much money for capital projects”?

Speaking of capital projects, the definition of capital is “Wealth or property that is invested to produce more wealth.” Salaries generally do not belong in any capital project fund, nor do insurance policies. Capital Projects provide new building and equipment. Normal maintenance of existing property is not an investment of capital.

Our family finances are constantly squeezed by higher health care, food, fuel, utility and tax costs, while we are anticipating a ten percent reduction in wages. I hope individuals in government will have the courage and selflessness to fight for Indiana Citizens. Indiana does need a new constitution. Common sense must be exercised and the needs of the people must prevail. Please stop wasting our money.

Karen Loveland

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