Muncie school board vote to appeal to state for a loan to help with $15 million deficit

(WISH Photo)

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — An Indiana school district is facing a $15 million deficit and the possibility of closing schools in Muncie.

The Muncie Community Schools is also proposing pay and benefit cuts for teachers to make up for the deficit.

School board members voted unanimously Tuesday night to appeal to the state for a loan to help them keep up with operations for the time being.

More than 25 people stood outside in the cold before the meeting showing support for Muncie teachers.

“We are out here, teachers and parents and just a bunch of concerned citizens because of what’s going on with the contract negotiations and the budget crisis,” said Ari Hurwitz, concerned parent.

Hurwitz is also part of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education Delaware County. His son attends East Washington Academy.

Like many parents, he said he would like to see more transparency from the district.

“I think we’re just looking to see the board provide information, provide details, provide evidence you know maybe connect with the public comments and respond to some of them and that sort of thing,” he said.

The district is now trying to find ways to make up for the $15 million deficit, including proposing cuts to benefits and pay for teachers.

“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,” said Dr. Steven Baule, superintendent. “Our deficit is extreme that our only option is 10% cut across teacher salaries.”

Inside the school board meeting, members talked about borrowing money from the state to help them with their financial mess.

“I know for all of us this is a very difficult decision, but I think it’s essential to sustaining operations,” said one board member.

24-Hour News 8 learned at the meeting the loan would be for $5 million and would come from the Distressed Unit Appeals Board. The board provides relief for distressed political subdivisions and school corporation.

The superintendent said just because the district is asking for $5 million doesn’t mean they’ll get the full amount.

“My understanding from some people who have loans from the DUAB board it’s not a very easy process because they want all the things done ahead of time to mitigate having to come ask for money,” said Dr. Baule. “So we have to work that process out, but I think this is the step at this point in time that needs to be taken.”

The superintendent said the district will have to gather financial documents to present to the board. He said it could take six to eight weeks minimum to hear back depending on how fast they can gather all the financial documents.

The next board meeting is scheduled for April 11 at the Muncie Area Career Center from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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