Delaware County

When is no plan a plan? ~ Muncie Community Schools waiver hearing and other tidbits

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If and when the referendum is passed we will begin strategizing -Tim Heller

December 9th 2013 the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) held their waiver hearing before the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE).  No ruling was made, and none was expected.   In attendance,  the Muncie Community school board,  the superintendent, the financial officer, and  approximately 60 citizens.  I would have liked more people in the auditorium, but it is what it is.

Things went fairly smooth, and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE)  asked some compelling questions.  I watched as they sifted through the paperwork which was presented.  They were extremely attentive to all parties which spoke that evening.  Asking for clarification when needed.  City Council person Mary Jo Barton cited State and Federal law regarding elementary children on the public transportation buses.  None of the IDOE members was aware of the law and asked Mrs. Barton to supply the law.  Hopefully, she will do so.

I am going to skip through the opening remarks from MCS and the testimony of the 20+ people and get to the closing remarks. Read the rest of this entry »

Muncie Community Schools – Public Hearing

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Notice of Public Hearing: Indiana Department of Education, Muncie School Corporation

Monday, December 9, 2013 – 5:00pm

A public hearing will be held by the Indiana Department of Education on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 5:00 p.m., or as soon thereafter as may be heard at the Northside Middle School Auditorium 2400 W Bethel Ave, Muncie, IN 47304 concerning the Petition for Waiver under Indiana Code 20-27-13-7 made by Muncie Community Schools to the Indiana Department of Education. Pursuant to IC 20-27-13-3, upon approval by a governing body, a school corporation must provide notice to the public of its intent to terminate transportation services for students and said notice must be provided at least three (3) years prior to the date transportation services are to be terminated. However, IC 20-27-13-7 allows a school corporation to seek a waiver of the three (3) year notice requirement by petitioning the Indiana Department of Education. Muncie School Corporation has made this request by way of a petition. A copy of the Petition is attached herein.

All persons in favor of, opposed to, or in any manner interested in Muncie Community Schools’ request for waiver of the three (3) year notice requirement are invited to attend this public hearing or forward written comments to Michael LaRocco, Director of Transportation, Indiana Department of Education Indiana Department of Education 115 W. Washington Street South Tower, Suite 600 Indianapolis, Indiana 46204. All comments by individuals of the public will be limited in time to accommodate all those wishing to make public comments.

Pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act, any individual interested in attending the hearing should contact Muncie Community Schools and advise what, if any, accommodation is needed to attend the hearing. For more information, contact Mark A. Burkhart, Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer Muncie Community Schools 2501 N. Oakwood Avenue Muncie, IN 47304. mburkhart@muncie.k12.in.us.

Petition for waiver in the matter of Muncie Sommunity Schools. (pdf)

Department of Education 

Blight in Delaware County

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blighted house copyWednesday night I had the opportunity to attend a public forum addressing blight in Indiana communities.  Muncie was the third such forum held.    Graciously hosted by Mayor Dennis Tyler at City Hall, the event saw a large and diverse group of citizens.

Indiana’s Abandoned Home program was presented by Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority overseen by Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, and spearheaded by Senator Jim Merritt in conjunction with State Representatives Lutz and Errington, and State Senators Lanane and Eckerty.

I’ll admit not familiar with the legal complexity of blighted properties,  still one doesn’t have to look far to see examples of houses and how it affects the surrounding neighborhoods.  Blighted properties are a magnet for crime, vandalism, squatters, arson and a variety of other undesirable elements.  It’s not just an urban problem, it extends to the rural area, too.

In Muncie, circa 2010, blighted properties were highlighted weekly in the newspaper drawing the public’s eye to the problems and solutions.  Often a property would be targeted, and the end result saw it either rehabilitated or removed.  We had a deconstruction program praised by Joe Hogsett, Indiana U.S. Attorney, which utilized  prison re-entry program as the source of labor.

We had some fantastic successes in rehabbing apartments and homes, but sadly, not every property is worth saving or fiscally feasible to rehab.

Somewhere along the line, the zeal for targeting blight has diminished,  The weekly articles ceased, information and progress on the properties became a guest column now and then with ideas but no real progress has been made.  Oh, we have had successes and hope of future successes to come, yet blight is still here for now.  And it’s very real.

With funding and legislation expected, how can those monies be evenly dispersed among 92 counties?  The State of Indiana has designated “Divisions” which groups together counties based on population.  Delaware County is Division Three and includes Clark, Elkhart, Hendricks, Johnson, LaPorte, Madison, Monroe, Porter, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and Vigo Counties.  Estimated amount of funds $19 million dollars.  As presented, this will be a very competitive program.  Municipalities will submit their properties and future reuse of properties.  The criteria used for submission is point based and links to further information is listed at the end of this blog.

The program, is quite detailed and subject to change before it becomes finalized, just consider this as a heads up and something to watch.

I’m still trying to digest all the information, and certainly don’t consider this anything more than a basic source of information.  Just keep your eyes out for further developments.

Economic Digest – Gary, Indiana

Indiana Association for Community Economic Development

Media Release – Muncie, Indiana

Funding Divisions and more info

Muncie competing for state’s demolition dollars (Star Press article available for 7 days)

Muncie Voters and the Referendum ~ Voting and thoughts…It’s USA

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Since the November 5th, 2013 certified election results have not been posted on the Delaware County website, will give you the information from the local paper.

The total was 46% Yes and 54% No.  The additional tax will not be assessed on taxpayers and citizens.

The supporters of the referendum are going nuts on social media, so I would like to give you a sample or two of what is being said.

Business owners who were against this hear me now. Much of the money I might have spent eating at your restaurant or buying your products will be spent on gas money ensuring my grandchildren have a way to school. The gas stations might pick up some of my money but you won’t. I will make sure I do all my shopping outside Delaware county as you don’t deserve my money. I know many of my friends and coworkers will join me in this boycott of money grubbing, heartless businesses.

Did any of the No voters take into consideration the many disabled children that go to all the different schools ON BUSES? I guess I got my answer last night.

… you are incorrect. If the State does not grant the waiver then MCS will be forced to borrow $7 million (cost of busing for 2 years) until they can legally stop the buses.

this morning (for the first time in my life) instead of being sad that I no longer live in Muncie (forced to move when I could not find a job) I prayed my thanks that my community supports my children.

There are more, but I think you are getting the gist of social media.   I’m not sure if  some locals understand the schools and all government services is shored up with taxes from business.  If they don’t, perhaps they should go back in time when Borg Warner, Westinghouse, and others filled the government coffers with plenty of green.  They want jobs but not businesses.

Who told the poster disabled students won’t have transportation?  Excuse me, but Federal law dictates this provision.   (More on that later.)  Another threatened MCS would have to borrow…really?  If they can’t afford transportation, they can afford payments and interest?  And lastly, he moved away because he couldn’t get a job?  So, he won’t pay a penny of this tax and he expects those left behind with less disposable income in the town to pay?

You may have heard about the waiver to end school transportation and MCS had submitted it in June.  Some even believed it was a done deal.  The waiver barely scratched Indiana code and I personally can’t believe this was actually submitted to the State of Indiana for consideration.  Waiver Request – Muncie 2013.  

Let’s consider the waiver and MCS continuing transportation for disabled students.  (Told you we would get there.)  Muncie Community Schools said they would provide transportation because  it is a Federal law.  Yet, we heard countless times, and you saw one post, that this transportation would be denied.  Not so, and while the supporters spread this around town, I don’t remember ever reading MCS disputed that claim.  It goes along with claiming buses would end in 2013.

Some “Yes” supporters are even saying that one little piece of paper with information on the additional taxes turned voters away from voting yes.  Really?  One little piece of paper changed the vote?    Imagine for a minute, just a minute, if the following happened:

  1. The local newspaper ran daily pro articles on the bus referendum
  2. The League of Women voters purchased signs with their logo in support
  3. The Democrat Party came out in support of additional taxes
  4. Thousands of fliers were distributed stating the buses would end in 2013
  5. The schools bus was in the parade
  6. Muncie City closed departments so the employees could work the polls (see Facebook status below)
  7. PAC (political action committee)  spent unknown dollars, and last we knew the filing of the PAC was overdue in registering.  Nobody knows who contributed to the billboard, signs, T-shirts, etc.

Well, sounds far-fetched?  It all happened.  A media blitz of one-sided reporting, a split League of Women Voters all of the above we witnessed.  And yet, the Yes supporters would like you to believe on little piece of paper swayed the voters.  Really?  How about this one, the voters were paying attention and  understood exactly what this referendum was about.  However, we are all stupid and can’t possibly think for ourselves.

Better yet, the voter didn’t get sucked up into an emotional frenzy designed to scare the bee jeebies out of you.   Instead thought and voted with clear heads.  We aren’t falling for their claims we were brainwashed when the deck was so  stacked against those concerned about $43 million in additional taxes.

Plenty of opportunities for the 3,806 Yes voters to donate to the school district, with booster clubs, fund raisers, field trips. one wonders if they will.  It’s kind of like the tax caps.  Complaining about “less” tax dollars yet never paying more than their tax bill.  Go figure…

I’ll leave you with the Facebook status report, there was NO prior notice from the city or the newspaper the departments would close.  It was a last-minute decision by the city administration.

Muncie Animal Shelter’s status.November 4  Hey Facebook friends! Just a friendly reminder we will be closed all day tomorrow due to voting. There will be an officer on call and we will be taking emergency calls. Sorry for the inconvenience!

The $6.5 million question – Muncie Community Schools referendum-update

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“For the seven calendar years immediately following the hold of the referendum, shall the Muncie Community Schools impose a property tax rate that does not exceed 39.39 ($0.3939) cents on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other property tax levies imposed by the Muncie Community Schools.”

The vote is Yes or No.

On the Yes side, all the taxpayers and citizens have been offered is “Keeping children safe.”  Who in their right mind doesn’t want to keep children safe?  Not anybody I know, probably not anyone you know, either.  The Facebook page “Vote Yes for Muncie School Buses” has detailed how much the cost would be on a $100,000 home without deductions.  The referendum would add $394.00 or $33.00 a month.

“VOTE YES IN NOVEMBER! It will give center township residents the option to raise taxes ($0.3939) cents on each $100 of assessed valuation. By doing this it will allow yellow school buses to run! THIS IS LESS THAN A TANK OF GAS A MONTH TO KEEP KIDS SAFE!!”

Sounds do-able for most, we can all add $33.00 to our monthly budget for the next seven years. Read the rest of this entry »

Muncie Sanitary Sewer System…can it handle the flow?

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For those of you which live in the Univeristy Avenue area, you may want to take note of a citizen and homeowner who is shedding some light on Muncie’s aging storm/sewer system.  You may just think “It’s not in my neighborhood…”   It very well could come to yours.  Sure, we have a lot on our plates, however planning ahead and preparing for the future can save a lot of headaches down the pipe.

The following letter was published in the Muncie Star Press on September 27th, 2013.

JOE MUMPOWER

Muncie

The city of Muncie has allowed and approved the construction of an apartment/commercial complex between University Avenue and North Street, and between Martin and Dicks streets, without proper sewage connections to the only 12-inch (inside diameter of pipes are only 9 inches) combination storm/sewage system that is 100 years old.

This line is too small for present use, much less adding extra sewage and runoff with new construction. The $50 million-plus project (200-plus apartments and maybe 10 retail stores) has not allowed any new sewage lineage.

It seems no one is willing to discuss this future problem with me as a local taxpayer.

Many of my neighbors cannot use their basements or flush their commodes in heavy rain in the area with combination storm and raw sewage.

No one wants to hear me complaining about this future problem. I think EPA should bring an injunction to stop this construction until Muncie invests and installs a new sewage system.

It seems the city only wants the new tax money from this project, yet refuses to install new sewage lines for all the additional development.

We have problems when most neighbors take the plug out of their basement drain, the water pressure in the sewage line will hit the basement ceiling. Pressure has cracked some basement floors.

Why will no one talk to me about this future problem?

Please help me before it is too late.

Muncie Sanitary District – Bill Smith  (765) 213-6412

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler  (765) 747-4845

Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) 

Saturday night and I ain’t got no money

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It’s a Saturday night and the past few weeks have been exciting.  Here are some awesome highlights of what’s been happening! Take a peek, if you dare.

We’re getting new landscape at City Hall.  Yep, the old landscape was removed and new is on the way.   A few months ago, we were privileged to get $5 million additional debt.   Some of the bond  debt was to go for needed repairs of the Hall.  Certainly, this was an awesome way to spend tax dollars.  New landscape…woo hoo!  I guess it wouldn’t matter if it was included in Todd Donati’s bond presentation most city council members wouldn’t question the expenditure.     “Let’s spend some more.”

Here are the before and after pictures of the landscaping done in 2009.  All native plants which require low maintenance and water have been removed to make way for the new landscape which nobody has a clue what it will look like or how much it cost to remove the previous and replace with whatever the city is replacing it with.

city hall circa 2008muncie city hall landscape 2009

City Parking Garage with caption 9-25-13Finally,we got the first glimpse of the $5 million parking garage, which is surrounded by stores and apartments.  No swimming pool on the top as promised.  A big bummer, but I don’t think it would be a public pool anyway.    Here’s the rendition of the $60 million complex and I have pointed out the $5 million garage we are paying for.

Here is the architectural drawing of the $1.5 million bathhouse.  Originally we were told it would be privately funded.  Nobody donated, so we get to pay for it.  Yea…

→ Image not available –

Sorry, the city hasn’t released the drawing yet.  We have to build it before you know what’s in it. 

Gee, you would think we are the Federal Government or something.

The good news is we are so broke, we can’t afford to build the $4 million Visitor Center located smack dab in the middle of a couple of car dealerships.  Looking for a car?  Stop in at the Visitor’s Center for some brochures of our county after or before you shop.  Jim Mansfield Director of the Visitor’s Bureau, was disappointed he wasn’t getting any new digs.

As most of you know, the county had to hire a firm to study our financial situation and give us an assessment.  It was pretty darn rosy.  Although, the county cleaned out the Rainy Day Fund (surplus) and cut $300,000.00, we still are teetering on the cusp of being broke or being broker.  (Is that a word? Oh well, it fits.)

The good news is the county passed a budget higher than last year.  I think they must have some money stashed away.  Anyway, it confused us because if you can’t meet last year’s expenditures without borrowing from the RDF (Rainy Day Fund), it makes perfect sense to increase the budget.  I mean, that’s what we all do in our budgets, right?

Well, no biggie, we’ll just borrow until we get property tax revenue. Except, we still have a higher budget than 2013, so exactly how is that going to work out?

Mike Jones, county council, isn’t the president, but may as well be as he is the lead spokesperson for the council.  I look for him to be president next year.  I mean, he spends some time on the public chats.  His comments on the budget weren’t well received.   “Yes way” Mr. Jones exclaimed when putting in his vote for the unsustainable budget.

Divided council and split vote

By the way, according to Jones, everyone that disagrees with him is a member of the Tea Party and every Republican that beats out a Democrat is a Tea Party, too.  (Sigh)

Kind of reminds you of the NSA thinking millions of American Citizens are terrorists.  So, we do mimic the Federal Government just a tad bit.

Mayor Tyler said that both the city and county were now controlled by one party.  He said there would be no excuses and we would be pleasantly surprised.

Wrong on both counts.  The excuses continue, at least on the county side…what’s new?  Yawn.  And nothing the Tyler administration does is a surprise.  How can it be, when it’s same old, same old?

That’s about it, folks.  See you soon!