Carol S. Corner, writing for the Indiana Property Tax Reporter has a very interesting comparison on school funding as between Lebanon and Zionsville. The post is entitled Indiana Tax Reporter: The Indianapolis Business Journal Compares the Zionsville School District Seeking a Referendum with Lebanon’s Schools that are Fiscally Healthy. (It references the Indiana Business Journal, so I guess I don’t know off hand how much of the Property Tax Reporter post is attributable to the IBJ.)
Zionsville has a more high end, residential population while Lebanon is more blue collar with more industry and warehousing. Changes in the last 5 years or so, significantly those having to do with the imposition of property tax caps have resulted in Lebanon having a much better school funding situation than Zionsville.
That outcry led the Indiana General Assembly to overhaul both property taxes and school funding during its 2008 session. Beginning in 2009, homeowners could be taxed no more than 1 percent of the assessed value of their homes. Farms could be taxed up to 2 percent of their value and businesses could be taxed up to 3 percent of their value.
At the same time, the state of Indiana raised sales taxes statewide and used the extra money, in part, to take over all financing of schools’ general funds. Districts with healthy property tax revenue now can use those funds only to pay for buildings and buses, not to pay teachers or to fund educational programs.
Then came the recession, which ultimately led Gov. Mitch Daniels to cut school funding $150 million, meaning all schools were getting less per student for their educational programs than before.
The Legislature’s 2008 actions “changed the game,” said Dax Norton, a Zionsville resident who is executive director of the Boone Economic Development Corp., based in Lebanon.
“The General Assembly basically said, ‘If you want to continue to survive, if you want to continue to innovate, you’re going to have to play the economic development game.’”
(The outcry being primarily from citizens in high-end, under-assessed older homes who were abruptly being asked to pay property taxes based on the actual market value of their homes.)
Anyway, the whole article is an interesting read. I recommend it.