Muncie Community Schools Plead Their Case on the School Bus Waiver
MUNCIE, Indiana – As Mark Burkhardt, Chief Financial Officer of Muncie Community Schools (MCS) said tonight to the four members from the Department of Education and School Transportation, “I certainly don’t envy your decision because both options aren’t really attractive.”
Mark was referring to the state’s decision over whether or not to grant MCS’s waiver request for suspending school bus transportation taking effect next 2014 school year.
If the waiver is not granted, MCS may be forced to borrow money and pay interest, as well as adhere to other requirements imposed by the state. If the waiver is granted, MCS will work with MITS, City of Muncie, and the Muncie Police Department to decide how best to get the kids safely to school.
However, the responsibility would shift to the parents, since their fellow citizens chose not to support them when they voted against the bus referendum.
As we previously covered on Muncie Voice, the community had an opportunity to divert this crisis last month by voting to approve the school bus referendum, allowing MCS to raise enough money to pay for the three-year contract to M&M Busing continuing yellow bus transportation for elementary and middle school kids.
However, after a repeatedly loud misinformation campaign headed by the local Tea Party which focused on accusing MCS administration and board members of mismanagement, and accusing the board of “extorting $43 million from taxpayers”, the community voted against the referendum.
Having another chance to make themselves heard, the Tea Party members were able to show off their lack of knowledge one last time with rehearsed speeches. Of course, Jim Arnold led off with Chris Hiatt batting clean up. One interesting note during this choreographed public display of ill-will toward government servants was Conrad Urban, who lost his campaign for Delaware County Treasurer, confessed at a public hearing, “I’m really not good with math or counting.”
I guess Delaware County taxpayers thwarted a financial disaster by not electing Mr. Urban.
Pat Kennedy, a veteran teacher of MCS offered these words of wisdom, “MCS has been under cost-containment for at least 15 years, and both the administration and board have done an outstanding job managing the budget under these conditions. Of course not everybody will agree on what should be cut when you operate a $50 million budget, but considering our problems, they’ve done a really good job.”
We know that Mark Burkhardt retired as CFO, but was literally begged to come back and help the school district. We’ve been impressed with Mark from the beginning with how he has handled all the accusations. He has incredible knowledge about school finance and educational folks outside Muncie always comment about how lucky we are for having him.
A big thanks to Rep. Sue Errington for sharing about her efforts at the statehouse to fix the protected tax issue with proposed legislation. Sue mentioned, “MCS is not alone with this issue, we just happen to be one of the first districts affected….there are at least 20 other school districts across Indiana who are negatively impacted by protected tax rules. We’ve verified this from speaking to many sources throughout the state.
“The state created this problem, so the state should fix it”, Errington noted. We are hoping to have a community meeting during the first week of January to hear more about the legislation to correct this problem and other education reform issues negatively impacting school districts throughout the state.
According to the education and transportation representatives from the state, we will learn of their recommendation within the next 30 days.