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Rural schools oppose merging

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The smallest school districts in Johnson County could save money by merging, as fewer employees would be needed to run a newly combined school district, but they don’t think the change is needed.

For the past several years fewer students have been attending Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools, and property tax caps have been limiting the amount of money Edinburgh schools could collect to pay its bills. Both rural school districts have been collecting less money to pay for teachers’ salaries and benefits, building upgrades and transportation.

To compensate, both school districts have been slow to fill positions when teachers or other employees resigned or retired. Indian Creek has been trying to conserve the money it receives from the state for every student that attends its schools, while Edinburgh is trying to spend less of the local property tax dollars it collects.

“I can’t make money. I’ve got to find it,” Edinburgh Superintendent William Glentzer said.

One option state officials have suggested is merging smaller school districts with fewer than 2,000 students. That would save money, as the newly combined school district would need one superintendent and administrative team, instead of the two that were running the previous two school systems. That idea came from the 2007 Kernan-Shepard report commissioned by former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who was in favor of legislation that would have consolidated smaller school districts.

Edinburgh now has about 900 students enrolled, while Indian Creek schools has more than 1,800.

If the two school districts merged, that would create a school district with 2,700 students that would still be smaller than Greenwood, Franklin, Clark-Pleasant and Center Grove schools.

But neither school district wants to combine with another. Edinburgh and Indian Creek officials feel they’ve managed previous budget shortfalls well, and they want to continue having local control of their rural school districts, Glentzer and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson director of learning Andy Cline said.

Indiana changed the funding formula for schools several years ago so that they receive the money for teachers’ salaries and benefits based on how many students are attending their schools. Expenses for building repairs, technology such as schools’ computers and for buses’ fuel and repairs are paid for with property taxes.

The funding formula means less money for school districts with fewer students each year, and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson has 33 fewer students today than it did at the start of the 2012 school year, which is a drop of almost 2 percent. That formula along with property tax caps makes it harder for smaller school districts to continue operating, Glentzer said.

“We’re all into some kind of challenge on the financial end,” Glentzer said.

Glentzer said he thinks Edinburgh can keep all of its bills paid by continuing to evaluate whether to replace employees who leave, and by keeping overtime costs down.

While fewer students have been attending Indian Creek schools, school officials are hopeful that during the next few years more students will start moving into the area, Cline said.

Indian Creek wants to remain its own school district that recognizes and is meeting the needs of the community, which is why this year the school district expanded its early college program for students. As Johnson County continues to grow and as the housing market improves, families looking to live in smaller, rural areas will want to move into the Indian Creek school district, Cline said.

The Cost of Education

Here’s a look at the student and budget numbers for Edinburgh and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools:



Number of students

$9.7 million

Total estimated 2014 budget

$7.3 million

Amount budgeted for teachers and staff


Amount budgeted for building upgrades and repairs‌


Amount budgeted for transportation‌


Amount budgeted to replace buses

‌These amounts are before shortfalls from property tax caps



Number of students

$24.5 million

Total estimated 2014 budget

$17.5 million

Amount budgeted for teachers and staff

$2 million

Amount budgeted for building repairs and upgrades

$1.2 million

Amount budgeted for transportation


Amount budgeted for bus replacement

SOURCE: Indiana Gateway Report

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