Muncie Community Schools
Director of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission speaks to the issue of Mitchell School.
There is a lot of misinformation and confusion going around that needs to be addressed. We are going to invite all the entities involved with the misinformation and either clear this all up and determine if the MRC will continue with the projects in play. The MRC had always shown interest in some of the properties that the MCS had to offer, including Mitchell, Storer, Sutton and land on Cornbread Rd.
The MRC had been contacted by a demolition company out of Richmond, IN that wanted to demo the schools for salvage. The MRC could not really do anything with the properties with buildings in place. The demolition company said they really did not want the land. So the demolition company offered the land to the MRC, for free, once they removed the buildings. The MRC board agreed to this only after we contacted BSU and asked them if they were interested in any of the properties. They had the right to buy them all.
The MRC was told that they did not have any interest in any of the properties but Northside MS. You have seen the recorded document waiving their right to buy. So the MRC board agreed to donate $658,600 to the MCS if they were to accept the $125,000 offer from the demo company. This would garner the MCS much needed revenue, this would allow the MCS to achieve their objective, illuminate the liability of taking care of these abandoned buildings and help generate at least $20- $50 million in taxable revenue on these combined properties.
The MRC board did not close these schools. The MRC board, nor the City of Muncie administration did not create the financial crisis within the MCS. The MRC board was only trying to create opportunities for the community we support. It seems that there are comments out there that we, the MRC and the City of Muncie asked BSU to give these schools up when in fact, BSU really wanted them. We have no interest in doing that. The MRC board would like to ask BSU if in fact they do want these schools.
The MRC board does not want to get involved with any form of miscommunication, especially with our community partners. And, we feel that BSU is a very valuable and important community partner. If BSU wants these schools, our board is prepared to take action. However, it needs to be BSU that openly states that this is what they want…not hearsay comments from unauthorized citizens.
There were no lies made or personal gains made from anyone in this group. I appreciate the hard work and dedicated members of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission. They volunteer their time to make our community better.
Disclaimer: The only changes made to this public post is breaking the comment into paragraphs for easier reading. Nothing else has been altered.
Why does MCS need to change? Why is it imperative Muncie Community Schools must look outside the box? It seems obvious, the old standard way of running the district is broken, it is ineffective, outdated and MCS is labeled as a “distressed district”.
Here’s what we can glean so far. Ball State University would like to manage the school district. An appointed board of seven members, two which will be appointed by the Mayor of Muncie and Muncie City Council. The board will hire a superintendent. MCS may receive additional funds from the State of Indiana, but no funds from Ball State University will be used. MCS employees will still be MCS employees. Of course, this is only a short summary and more will be available.
Listen to the interview with President Mearns on Indiana Public Radio.
We don’t want to spend much time on how Muncie Community Schools became Distressed School District with a state take-over, but we do need to have a look at the history.
The chatter on social media sites is awash with opinions and comments.
One of the issues seems to be the loss of voting for school board members. However, we had five elected board members prior to the state take-over. Today the board has absolutely no power. At the most, they’re consulted by the emergency managers, they can’t vote on anything. The superintendent is powerless, too. He’s a lame duck. State votes to take over Muncie Community Schools
Less than two months past Muncie Teachers Association and others supported relinquishing that right. Knowing the State would make elected officials ineffective and all power removed and handed over to a hired company – the goal was achieved. What’s the difference?
Muncie Community Schools has never had a solid long-term plan.
Circa 2005 the district embarked upon an aggressive improvement plan. Bonding out approximately $50 million in debt. Despite all the economic factors, such as the loss of jobs, decrease in enrollment and population, businesses shutting down the board decided to move ahead with the bond.
In 2010 the Blue Ribbon Task Force presented the administrators for consideration a plan for the district. It collected dust until 2013 when the school board voted to consolidate the two high schools. This after the referendum was defeated.
Prior to the referendum, MCS held four Town Hall meetings presenting several proposals for the district, yet at the State hearing for busing, we found the district had no plan. No one from the City of Muncie, not the mayor, not the chief of police presented a safety plan although we were told there was one. NO PLAN – let this sink in.
Doing the same thing and expecting results.
The administrators and boards have used the same plans for decades. It consisted of shutting down schools or borrowing. That’s it. They ignored State Board of Accounts audits. Ignored repeated deficit line items. The newest school sold for pennies while keeping open deteriorating elementary schools. A short-term fix was all we were offered. The $10 million bond for school repairs dumped into the general fund and used for administrative purposes. No one can say for certain how that money was spent.
Original bond information: MCS 2014 Debt bond 1-27-18
Debt summary 2013 to 2017 MCS Debt Reports 2013-16 1-28-18
Having no plans, or limited plans have proven to not do a darn thing for moving Muncie Community Schools forward. If the label “distressed” isn’t a wake-up call for change, nothing will open your eyes.
A fresh new plan:
Partnering with Ball State University, community organizations, and individuals, the school board, the elected officials in a collaborative and healthy environment will do more for our children and school district. We must set aside our political ideologies, desire for control and stop thinking about our own wants over the needs of the most important people…the students of Muncie Community Schools. A good school district will do more for Muncie then all the economic development we spend millions to produce with very little return on our investment. Larry Riley penned a column several years ago similar BSU’s proposal. Incremental steps won’t help Muncie Community Schools
Accomplishing a working environment conducive to education and economic development may be the hardest thing the area has ever had to do. Simply because it’s not in our nature to put aside our turf wars and think outside the box.
Nothing else has worked.
Sometimes the best way to see the future is to dig up the past.
Larry Riley predicted the outcome of Gearbox now Madjax. His column appeared in the local paper on January 30, 2016. One community member claimed Riley was biased in this column, although Riley did provide compelling arguments.
the organization has no revenue stream, no signed tenants, no record of accomplishment Source: Gearbox vs Greenspace Muncie Star Press 1-30-16
Sustainable Muncie hasn’t been around as an organization long enough yet to file its first required annual financial report, having been organized only in December of 2014. Source: Gearbox vs Greenspace Muncie Star Press 1-30-16
Another minus to Gearbox is the cost: $1 million, now guaranteed by the city (if Sustainable Muncie can’t make existing or future loan payments this year, then the city’s money kicks in, but the organization is to pay back the city by the end of this year … how?) Source: Gearbox vs Greenspace Muncie Star Press 1-30-16
So involved was Mayor Dennis Tyler no other ideas could be considered. In fact, he was silent about another proposal, Tom Bracken’s greenspace. Which makes one wonder why he dismissed other ideas and put Gearbox to the feasibility test. Or Bracken’s proposal for that matter. Mayor Tyler brought only one idea to the public.
And that’s the end of that.
Let’s look at what has transpired since Riley’s column. At the time, City council passed an ordinance backing $1 million to be paid back by the end of 2016.
Tyler told The Star Press he wanted to loan $1 million in EDIT revenue to the group rather than just give it to Sustainable Muncie to create an obligation to be repaid. The loan is supposed to be repaid by the end of 2016.
We know for a fact the money was not paid back.
“The city has not issued any money as it related to this line of credit,” officials replied through city human resources director Sarah Beach last week. Donati, who is also a Sustainable Muncie board member, told TheStar Press that the board was “trying to decide what direction we want to go with” the funding for Madjax, including the original $1 million line of credit. “Eventually, something will have to be done with it. … It’s totally Sustainable Muncie’s responsibility to pay that back and they’re looking at how to get that done.” Source: Star Press June 6, 2017
Two months after this article appeared in the paper, the citizens of Muncie were looking at a $4.5 million dollar bond. The bond was passed with the promise of no property taxes and a training program. But, in June, Donati and Tyler were already considering bonding for this project, we just didn’t know about it.
Interesting to note: The City Council had little financial information in 2016 and just a smidgeon more in 2017 yet, they still voted a big fat YES in both instances.
- January 2016 Muncie City Council voted to loan Gearbox $1 million with no financial information
- December 2016 Loan not paid
- June 2017 Donati said it was Sustainable Muncie’s responsibility to pay back the money
- August 2017 Notice for public hearing on $4.5 million bond published
- August 2017 Muncie City Council learned of Sustainable Muncie’s debt
- August 2017 Donati said $200,000 has been set aside by Muncie Redevelopment Commission & others for $348,000 annual bond debt repayment (Muncie Redevelopment Commission & others)
- August 2017 Muncie City Council voted to introduce the ordinance
- September 2017 Public Hearing for Madjax – Sustainable Muncie
- September 2017 Muncie City Council voted to approve the bond
Madjax was not able to pay the interest-free loan in 2016 or make any payments in 2017. Muncie Redevelopment has set aside $200,000 to guarantee the 2018 bond payment.
This is the transparent government of Mayor Dennis Tyler. But I digress…
You may be interested in looking at the City of Muncie’s total debt as of 9-29-17. For your reading pleasure see links below on the TIF obligations. As you can see, TIF revenues (property tax dollars) hold a large share of the debt repayment.
Recently Muncie City Council added $4.5 million in debt and Mayor Dennis Tyler is wanting to bond another $3.5 million for Muncie Community Schools. $8 million additional debt in less than one month. Chew on it, baby.
The sad part is the TIF revenue is real property tax dollars. The reason why TIF districts are so popular amongst government units is simple. The money collected in the districts can be spent any which way. Even a $4.5 million bond claiming it is for training purposes for a cash-strapped start-up company. One in which the mayor and his appointed president of the Redevelopment Commission (MRC) sit on the board. Go figure.
That’s all, folks! See y’all soon.
Todd Donati – Muncie Redevelopment Commission, President
When: Thursday 9-7-17
Time: 4:00 PM
Where: City Hall Mayor’s Conference Room
A public hearing on $4.5 million dollar bond for Madjax. The repayment is from leases and should they fall short? You guessed it….tax dollars will make the payment.
The bond money will help to pay off some of the $1.762 million in debt Madjax owes. Seems similar to a consolidation loan where you borrow money to pay off your debts and have one payment. You still owe, though.
In this case, if Madjax pays off their debt, but fails to make the bond issuance payment, the taxpayers will pick up the slack.
Since when did the Muncie Redevelopment Commission become a bank? We’re talking about $4.5 million dollar loan. Surely, if MRC has that kind of dough to throw around perhaps MRC should instead loosen up their purse strings and return $4.5 million back to the taxing entities.
Mayor Tyler claims he wants to help the schools, how about restructuring TIF districts? Instead, we’ll take even more money for the cash-cow call TIF districts.
Most everyone liked the idea of a Maker’s Place until we found out the city is dishing out money right and left. You have to wonder about the adverse reaction Bracken’s proposal created. There’s some money to be had or someone is going to benefit. Won’t be the taxpayers, guaranteed.
Some time has passed since council members showed some reluctance on this bond. Let’s see how they vote after their private meetings. Afterall, going against Mayor Tyler and his appointed friend Todd Donati might cost them Democrat Headquarters support come next election.
Discernment is woefully lacking. We prefer having our ears tickled and being told what we want to hear. Anything outside of this is considered evil. We don’t dare examine the past and be on the alert for warning signs.
You know, we sold the best school for pennies on the dollar. It was suspect from the beginning when the request for bid was written so only one company could bid. It would have been to MCS advantage to have competitive bidding. Who at MCS was overseeing this sale and what was told to the board?
Today, that building is up for sale and several people have lost their jobs. Donati washes his hands “We didn’t give them a tax abatement.” Yes, but he authored the sale.
So, when the mayor and city council show up with concern on their faces, you might want to ask why the MRC did not write the bid specifications to allow for competitive bidding? Oh, Mayor Tyler just appointed Donati, he doesn’t manage the MRC. Right.
This is akin to the Craig Nichols receiving bid work Or VAT which cost us a cool million or two.
The MRC had to open up the bidding for the Wilson property to anyone, but the requirements were narrowly written to make it most likely that ASONS would be the only bidder.
During Thursday’s MRC building, the only bid was opened and it was from ASONS
Source: Former Wilson school changing hans Muncie Star Press May 7, 2015
Having you been missing Larry Riley’s columns from the local newspaper? If so, you won’t want to miss this event.
When: May 29th, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Where: Kennedy Library
1700 W McGalliard Rd, Muncie, IN
We know Memorial Weekend is busy, so even if you can’t make it at 6:30 PM, the doors will be open during the event. Bring your questions.
Hope to see you!