The Indy Star recently wrote an article How Hamilton Southeastern Schools says it's hurt by IKEA, Topgolf and Portillo's.
HSE has a labor problem finding good bus drivers. With a strong economy and low unemployment, 2.8% in July, driving a bus isn't a the top of the labor force "Best jobs" list. You'd think with so many people in need of health benefits, a simple
solution might be to drive a bus and receive that benefit.
But apparently, it's not not enough to entice applicants. To get qualified drivers, HSE Schools MUST pay better wages. The district's drivers, at $82 dollars per day, make less than Carmel and Noblesville school bus drivers.
The transportation funds pay for drivers and that comes out of our property taxes. HSE wants to hike the property tax rate from $1.26 to $1.34 per $100 assessed value. The district says that it's transportation budget in 2017 is $13 million with the 2018 budget calling for $15.6 million. A $2.6 million dollar increase.
Apparently, it's easier to ask local business and homeowners to fund the difference to pay more for bus drivers. Luckily, state tax caps protect some of us from higher taxes. Voters in 2016 approved a HSE Schools referendum that more than doubled the current tax rate of 10 cents on every $100 of a home's assessed value to nearly 23 cents. So you're already paying that.
So here's the point: The problem CAN be solved without increasing your taxes, and how?
1) Force the parents whose kids use the bus, pay the extra cost.
Parents have a strong voice in HSE's district as seen by the recent calendar conflict. Parent might not like paying for their own kids benefit and ask others to pay. But frankly, this is the ole "transfer of wealth" strategy. Yes, the parents of Fishers and Noblesville can afford it.
2) Remove or Pass-through the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds the cities of Fishers and Noblesville divert from HSE.
This might be a little complicated, but here goes. TIF is a "tool" that speeds up the Economic Growth in an already growing suburb like ours, capturing today practically all new business growth to be parlayed into... more growth. Since most every commercial property is now mapped out in a TIF allocation area, Fishers and Noblesville Economic Development Departments capture almost all new property taxes paid by business in HSE's district.
Organic business growth is now gone for decades into our future. This strategy increases the pressure on HSE, encouraging faster growth than a natural free market approach---UNLESS city leaders decide to pass-through the funds to HSE.
The colored areas in the map are our TIF areas.
These TIF areas capture business property and they are removed from the levy net assessed valuation normally increasing money in the transportation funding--since it is a "rate limited" fund. By placing business parcels back into the mix, this would put more money back into the districts transportation funds.
Also, when HSE Schools raise taxes, the Economic Development Departments capture even more undeserved taxpayer dollars in these TIF funds--funds that could go toward paying bus drivers more money.
This chart is an example of the captured apartment and assisted living business parcels in our TIF districts located within HSE.
The impact grows when adding in other business parcels like new strip malls and grocery store expansions, businesses which naturally occur in suburbs like Fishers and Noblesville.
We are blessed to live in a community with so much wealth. But the long-term solution to solving bus driver shortages and other economic issues facing our award-winning schools is by electing officials who will better allocate our hard-earned tax dollars and by encouraging some personal responsibility for your own child's education.
Fishers Homeowner, Republican Hamilton County Delaware 19 Precinct Committeeman and FCoHC board-member.
WTHR 13 - Central Indiana schools facing school bus driver shortage
Hamilton Southeastern Schools says ‘good economy’ is contributing to bus driver shortage
Larry Lannan Podcast with Jim White, HSE Transportation