MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — The Muncie School Board is considering asking a state agency for a loan – potentially as much as $5 million – to help the struggling school district stay afloat financially.
The district is currently facing a $15 million deficit and has already asked a state arbitrator to weigh in on its plan that calls teachers to take 10 to 20 percent pay cuts and the potential of closing up to five schools in the district, I-Team 8 has learned through interviews with administrators, a board member and teachers.
Superintendent Dr. Steven Baule told I-Team 8 that the loan would not be a continual source of revenue but more of a stop-gap measure to keep the district operating.
“We are a clear example of what that process was made to help. Hopefully we get some help,” Baule said.
The district is hoping for upwards of $5 million through the loan that could be potentially approved by the Distressed Unit Appeals Board through the Department of Local Government Finance.
The loan would act as a life preserver of sorts while the district sorts out its long-term fiscal health, Baule said.
“Obviously we need short term help to get through that process,” Baule said. “We are asking for salary cuts because we don’t have a choice. I would rather not make those cuts — we don’t have choices.”
When asked if Baule would take a pay cut, he was non-committal.
“I’ve been asked that before, it depends on what circumstances are.”
When pressed if that was a maybe, Baule said: “I think I answered that it depends.
“Administrators are making less than predecessors did. To some extent, we took pay cuts coming in because we knew the fiscal situation that existed,” Baule said. “Everybody already has skin in the game… and I am the one that has to deal with the drama of all this. I am the one that has to tell people that they don’t have a job potentially.”
Colleen Steffen, a parent of a child attending MCS, said: “I think that’s outrageous. If you are asking ordinary staff members to take cuts, you should do it too. It’s the least you can do.”
Dr. Baule said salary reductions won’t be enough to make up for the shortfall.
He also said the district is considering closing schools, but couldn’t say definitively yet. The district is waiting on the arbitrator to make her finding before moving forward with salary cuts or school consolidation plans, Baule said.
“I can’t come up with a scenario that doesn’t involve closing schools,” Baule said.
Baule said the Northside Middle would likely be on the chopping block because the building is in better shape than the district’s other middle school. Baule said that consolidation is necessary because enrollment has dropped.
Pat Kennedy with the Muncie Teachers Association, said that district’s proposal would force Muncie teachers to leave.
In fact, she said some are already leaving mid-year out of fear that the cuts are imminent.
“Teachers are scared for future they are leaving,” she said. “We are sinking as school corporation and it isn’t necessary.”