The Washington Community School Board unanimously approved a budget for 2020 of $25.5 million. The budget passed without comment. Officials say there was not a lot new in it. “It is very similar to last year’s,” said School Superintendent Dr. Dan Roach. “It does have a slight increase.”

While the budget includes an increase, the school system has also seen an increase in its assessed valuation. Other changes will include the elimination of some debt on teacher pensions. “We did see a reduction in our operations fund because this budget does not include the pension debt,” said Roach. “That bond will be paid off in the next few months.”

Another change in the budget is the result of action by the last session of the general assembly that removed around 2% from the school system’s retirement account. State lawmakers did not direct that money to go to teacher salaries, but when it was proposed Governor Eric Holcomb suggested that the money go to teacher pay. That is what Washington officials decided to do with what amounted to $110,000 freed up by that additional money.

“That will go to salaries and benefits for our teachers,” said Roach. “We have 138 teachers available for that money. It will be a very small portion of their salaries.”

The advertised tax rate to support the budget will be $1.35. That is down from the 2019 advertised rate of $1.61 per $100 property valuation. “We always advertise high in anticipation of cuts from the Department of Local Government and Finance,” said Roach. “The approved tax rate for last year was 94 cents so we would anticipate a rate that is approved at less than 94 cents.”

The budget is now sent to the state for review. The final numbers are expected to be returned to the school system later this year.

In other business the school board received a report from Washington High School Principal Steve Peterson about the work that has been done on the graduation pathways project. He also announced that in connection with the school’s efforts to create better prepared graduates that the high school will be holding a symposium Oct. 18. The program is designed to show business, industry and economic leaders in the community some of the things now being offered at the high school as part of the graduation pathways. The event will also include contacts so that those local operations might be able to partner with the school.

The School Improvement Plans for all of the schools in the Washington Community Schools were passed and will be submitted to the Indiana Department of Education.

The board made no change on its allocation of the Teacher Appreciation Grant money. That money in the past has been tied to the state testing of students, but with all schools in Indiana seeing their scores fall under the ILEARN test state officials are expected to be “held harmless” for those results this year.

The board also approved expanding the high school’s trip to France to include 42 people in 2021 and to consider another trip to France in 2022.

The board also passed a motion to allow trips to French Lick and Bowling Green, Kentucky for the BETA Club.

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