- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GARY, Ind. (AP) - The company providing school bus service to more than 4,000 students in Gary says it will suspend service unless the school district comes up with a plan to pay the nearly $3 million it owes the company.

Illinois Central School Bus notified the Gary Community School Corporation last month that it would halt bus service on Nov. 10 unless payments are made.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that the amount the district owes is growing by about $150,000 each week.

CEO Steve Hemmerlein said officials have met with Gary Community Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt to discuss the issue.

“Multiple conversations with Dr. Pruitt have revealed what we anticipated - Gary Schools has a $23 million budget deficit and there is no plan for paying ICSB and other vendors,” he said in a statement.

Hemmerlein said the company can’t continue to cover its costs without a payment plan.

“It breaks our heart to be in this position,” he said.

Hemmerlein said the company is trying to find a way to keep the buses running.

Illinois Central Bus began providing bus service to Gary schools in 2007 and is in the second year of a three-year contract.

The school corporation has lost $34.5 million since 2010 because of statewide property tax caps and uncollected property taxes, Pruitt has said.

She said in September that the district had paid $57.3 million to Illinois Central during the past five years, including $20.1 million over the past three years and $316,182 in the past 30 days.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has pledged to help the district find answers.

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