Carmel education board proposes new budget without cuts to kindergarten, athletics

The proposal includes $38 million in projected state aid, $104 million in property taxes and $1.1 million in fund balance.

Jonathan Gordon

Mar 20, 2024, 12:39 AM

Updated 121 days ago


For more than three hours on March 12, residents pushed back at a budget proposal from the Carmel Board of Education over concerns about where the board was cutting from.
The board presented an updated budget Tuesday night that does not touch two major sticking points for parents - kindergarten and athletics.
"This is the district listening to the community and saying we want to be responsive to what you're asking for and that's exactly what we did," Carmel Interim Superintendent of Schools Joseph McGrath said.
The proposal includes $38 million in projected state aid, $104 million in property taxes and $1.1 million in fund balance.
This would still leave the district with a nearly $4 million hole which is down from the nearly $6 million projected deficit last week.
District officials blame a combination of several factors that have led to this multimillion-dollar gap, including underdelivered state aid, expiration of COVID relief funds, rising inflation and small tax levy increases over the last decade.
The new proposal would close this hole by making $4.9 million in cuts to staffing and programming, including field trips, STEAM supplies and clubs.
"Every one of these programs draws people to this district and without them, our community will undoubtedly become a much less desirable place to live," one Carmel parent said.
The board is currently considering two options one that lowers the potential tax increase (2.34%) by using money from the fund balance ($1.1 million) or not touching the fund balance ($0) but offsetting that with a higher tax increase (3.43%).
The district is also considering switching its elementary classes to the Princeton Plan, a system that assigns kids to schools based on their grades instead of where they live. The move could potentially save the district an additional $880,000 - but would require state approval.
This additional change could further lower the tax levy increase (1.47%) by using the fund balance ($1.1 million) or using none of the fund balance ($0) at a slightly higher tax increase (2.56%).
State law requires a simple majority of voters to pass a school budget that raises taxes below the cap but the district could seek to raise that number to offset cuts but it would require support from 60% of the voters.
Carmel's maximum allowable tax levy increase is 3.52%.
The board must adopt a budget by April 16 before it goes before the voters on May 21.
The board's next meeting is Tuesday, March 26.

More from News 12