State hears from school and community on Muncie financial crisis

(WISH Photo)

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — More than a hundred people attended a community meeting Monday night to address the state and to talk about the financial crisis in Muncie Community Schools.

The district is facing an $18 million deficit. For now the district will have to wait for members of the Distressed Unit Appeals Board to select an emergency manager.

The emergency manager will be responsible for handling operations and getting the district back on track.

The gym at Muncie Area Career Center was packed Monday night as members of the DUAB heard from people in the community.

“I hope we aren’t too late to save the most dedicated teachers that are still with the corporation,” sad Johnna Oliver, resident.

“In my 45 years in Muncie I have never seen the community come together as it has for Muncie Community Schools,” said Linda Hanson, resident.

The Muncie school superintendent said the district has already made cost saving measures, like transportation and privatizing school nurses and custodians. Last month the school board also voted to close three elementary schools as part of the deficit reduction plan.

“Closing three elementary schools is going to save us just under three million dollars and that doesn’t include services that we haven’t figured out yet as far as maintenance rounds,” said Steven Bauale, superintendent.

The district is now labeled as “fiscally impaired” as a result of a legislation signed by Governor Eric Holcomb last week.

The legislation allows the state to take over and for the state to appoint an emergency manager.

The Muncie Teachers Association is hoping for a new set of eyes with the emergency manager; whoever it may be.

“If the state wants this process to have a chance at succeeding the appointed manager must be a person of integrity, a person who facilitates fairness in collaboration,” said Pat Kennedy, president of the Muncie Teachers Association.

School board leaders said they will continue to make progress.

“Please know that the current board, community leaders and interested stakeholders are all committed to improving the financial condition of our school corporation,” said Debbie Feick, president of Muncie School Board. “We will work tirelessly to achieve a sustainable financial future for MCS.”

The state will have until the end of June to hire an emergency manager and until the end of the year to decide whether to release the district if progress is made.

School leaders are hoping to avoid the label of “distressed political subdivision” from DUAB.

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