- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - A cash-strapped central Indiana school district that’s already struggling with how to get students to school faces a new financial hurdle: $10 million in needed repairs.

The Muncie Community Schools board got the news last week during a work session focused on facility improvements, cutting costs and transportation.

The projects include nearly $2 million in work at the newly merged Central High School that must be done this summer before the high schools consolidate. Other projects include work at several elementary schools, the Muncie Area Career Center and the Muncie Fieldhouse, The Star Press reported (https://tspne.ws/1ptAQGA ).

The need for improvements comes as the district struggles to cut its budget and find money to continue school bus service. Voters in November rejected a request for additional money to keep buses running, and the state Department of Education denied the district’s request for a waiver from a three-year notice required before ending bus service in December.

The district would lose 89 percent of its transportation funding under current state law requiring that property tax revenue first be used to pay down debts. That loss could drop to 44 percent if legislation pending in the General Assembly passes.

That fix, in the form of a bill currently working its way through the general assembly, will delay the impact of protected taxes, but only for three years.

“We need to be active as a school district in making sure that the legislature understands that the quick fix that they gave us … is not acceptable,” board President Tony Costello said.

The district also is trying to cut $5 million so it can live within its revenue.

Despite those challenges, Chief Financial Officer Mark Burkhart said the time is right to seek a bond for the school repairs and renovations.

Burkhart said two general obligation bonds will be paid off this year and that a new bond for these new projects would be targeted at the annual average of the last ones. He also noted that interest rates are “very attractive” for the bonds now.

“We need to move quickly to do the work at Central High School that needs to be done this summer,” he said.


Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

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