HAMLET — OD-EDPAC (Oregon-Davis Educational Political Action Committee) will be holding a public information meeting at OD High School gymnasium March 20 at 6 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to explain the tax levy that was recently proposed to Starke County Commissioners.
The funding problem for OD began with the recent changes at the state level on how school funding is calculated.
Oregon-Davis School Corporation Superintendent Steven Disney explained their current financial situation to the county commissioners at their recent meeting.
Disney said schools were previously funded in a large part by the state while the general fund tax levy for Oregon-Davis covered roughly one-third of the budget, allowing the state to cover the remainder. However, new legislation has switched all school funding to the state, eliminating the local tax levy. Following that, the state has made a number of legislative changes that have reduced the amount of funding given to schools, forcing Oregon-Davis to make some tough decisions.
“Since the state has taken over, Oregon-Davis’s funding and general fund revenues has been cut, cut, and cut. And specifically, small schools like Culver, like Oregon-Davis, like South Central, like Argos, are receiving about a 10 percent cut, where districts like Plymouth and Knox this year are at about even or about a one to two percent increase, so small schools have been cut,” said Disney.
Toward the beginning of 2010, Oregon-Davis had an annual budget of $4.6 million. In January 2011, the corporation was informed that they would be receiving roughly a five percent reduction in funding from the state, so they knew they would have to tighten their belts for the upcoming year. However, in August, the corporation received a letter from the state informing them that they would receive $4.19 million in general funds, then in October, they were told it would be again reduced to $3.982 million. Enrollment for the school has also been declining due in part to the economic decline, further lessening the budget.
Disney said the levy, if granted would not affect the entire county.
"The referendum is outside of the circuit breaker and will not impact the county. In fact, in 2011, Oregon-Davis had a total school tax rate of 92 cents compared to Knox at 1.11 and North Judson at 1.11. County-wide, if the referendum were to pass, it would be outside the circuit breaker impact, and with the additional levy, Oregon-Davis would still have a school tax rate at or below the rest of the county schools," he said.
Disney said that even with a minimal tax increase, OD will still have the lowest rate in the county.
“We’ve tried to do everything that we could to get the tax rate down from 2012. In 2011, we were at 92 cents. In 2010, we were at 99 cents. For 2012, we’re going to be down to 84 — so this 19 cent increase would actually make our tax rate at $1.03, which is basically where it was in 2010. We have the lowest school tax rate in the county, even with these 19 cents added,” he said.
Persons who attend the meeting will learn more about the proposed levy; what will happen in the event the referendum isn't passed; and the importance of OD as a learning institution in the community.
Despite rumors that are circulating, OD Schools do not plan to close — however, if the referendum is rejected, they may merge with another corporation.