Muncie Community Schools
Muncie Community Schools has been dominating the headlines in the local newspaper. Did the school district fall into sudden disrepair financially and physically? Has the proverbial can been kicked down the road?
Questions like these have divided the district. Some opting to believe the signs were glaring while others believe it is the fault of the current administration. Whatever road you’re traveling it’s coming to an abrupt end.
Let’s take a look at the stark picture:
A Brief Review of School Financing, Performance and Enrollment in Delaware County Indiana (PDF). Delaware County School Data Mar 1 2017-1
Certainly, there are other factors which come into play. For the purpose of this blog entry, we will be focusing on the review and newspaper article.
Walking down memory lane
Let’s take a walk down memory lane. 2013 was the year when MCS planned to stop bus service unless the referendum was passed. The Democrat Party held a press conference in support of the $45 million tax increase. At that time, Democrat Headquarters property was tax exempt. This property would be exempt from paying the tax. I’m not sure if they pay a voluntary PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Property Taxes), it does seem if there is so much concern for safety, they would gladly pay PILOT.
Plans, plans and more plans
Muncie Community Schools claimed they were working with the City of Muncie on a plan to get children back and forth to school safely. At the public hearing in December 2013 before the Indiana Department of Education, no one from the City of Muncie presented any plan. In fact, not one representative from the city spoke on any plan. A member of the IDOE board asked if there was a plan. The answer was no. No fiscal plan and no safety plan.
Income tax increase
Fast forward to September 1st, 2015 when Mayor Tyler announced the LOIT tax would be passed. 43% increase in income taxes for employees all over Delaware County. Muncie was denied renewal of the SAFER grant and although the Mayor assured the public the city had enough money to continue public safety, we didn’t. Hence, the passing of the tax in 14 days.
The 2016 City budget had been crafted in August 2015. Neither the Mayor or Muncie City Council ever mentioned the possibility funds would be short. Leading citizens to believe public safety monies were available in the budget. Mayor Tyler presented the LOIT tax, and I suppose the lack of funds which no one seemed to notice may have been justified. Still, if safety is foremost in the Mayor’s mind, he certainly didn’t seem to be monitoring it closely.
The Great Debate – Safety
The big debate now is if the Muncie Community Schools should be closed or delayed because of weather. It shows up every winter season. Yet, MCS has a history of no delays and seldom closes. The winters of 2014 & 2015 were certainly out of the norm. Extreme weather conditions warranted the closing of schools, businesses and canceling of events.
Mayor Tyler did not miss the opportunity to weigh in through his Twitter account.
Words vs. Actions
This brings me to aligning words with actions. While the Mayor feels compelled to criticize Muncie Comunity Schools, he seems to be oblivious to the children, teenagers and adults which are forced to walk in the streets because the City of Muncie doesn’t enforce the ordinance of snow removal from sidewalks.
Certainly, it is a difficult ordinance to enforce. Yet, not that difficult it seems. Last year, a property owner was clearing the sidewalks of his property. The ordinance police showed up and wanted to levy a fine against the owner for complying with the city ordinance. As it goes, the citizen had blown some snow into a street which had not yet been plowed. Police were called and nothing came of it. To my knowledge, no one from the city addressed the incident.
Yet all around the vicinity were sidewalks that had not been cleared. Go figure…
Speed limits and stop signs
The City of Muncie is busy lowering speed limits on streets and installing stop signs in obscure locations, they can’t seem to come up with a safety plan or a way to enforce their own ordinances.
If safety is a concern, might one suggest the Mayor use some of the tax dollars he increased to make our sidewalks safe to walk on in the winter months? Not sure how safe Memorial or Tillotson is for foot traffic, especially in the early morning and evening hours.
All this just to say, align their words with actions. So, I’ll leave you with an op-ed cleverly written and laced with humor:
Bus stop: Why and when issue was really decided
Though I’m writing these words prior to last night’s school board meeting, one doesn’t need a lot of tea leaves to divine the outcome.
School officials have made clear they want more money from somebody and busing is the hostage.
Taxpayers wouldn’t agree to give them more taxes in a 2012 referendum by a nearly 2-1 margin.
Creditors worried about repayment of debt successfully lobbied the legislature to make sure they won’t have to part with any money they’re owed.
So now the 20 percent or so of school boards across Indiana that can’t handle their finances appear to be collectively trying to tell the General Assembly that they’ll end busing if they don’t get more money. Muncie Star Press 7-14-15
Read the full column here.
In earlier posts, discussed the TIF districts, the financial impact and the bill to monitor Redevelopment Commissions. For those which don’t understand the overreach of these commissions, they have the power to spend with very little oversight. No one seems to be accountable.
Recently, Delaware County voted to bond $5 million backed with TIF revenue. The purpose – installing sidewalks – averaging about $500,000 per mile. Last November, the Muncie Redevelopment Commission authorized temporary payments of $4,500 per month for maintenance at the Village parking garage. Muncie Redevelopment and City forgot to include upkeep of the city-owned garage. No word if that expenditure has been continued, perhaps hoping the public will forget. Is it too early to get the amount of revenue for the parking meters and garage? These charges were guaranteed to make the bond payment, ya know.
There has been a successful effort to monitor the financials of local units, and doing so, found MSD‘s overpayment of quoted work by $300,000. Nothing from the mayor on the State Board of Accounts audit. I don’t know where Liberty Regional Wastewater stands today on their petition against the MSD. Some of you may remember LRWD’s rates increased to fund areas in the MSD which LRWD receives no benefit. Money collected for the purpose of separating sewers also went for a natural gas station about 18 months ago. No update on the revenue generated. However, at the public hearing for MSD rate increases, the citizens requested assurance the tax hike would be strictly used for stormwater. Obviously not.
Muncie Community Schools is still in the market for a superintendent and chief financial officer. No word on how that search is coming along or if there are any viable candidates. A county school is looking for a new superintendent, too.
We’ve covered some basics for Delaware County, MSD and MCS, so let’s take a look at Muncie, Indiana’s tax rates, debt and TIF districts. ThIs is basic information but, more than enough to bring you up to speed, if need be.
Muncie’s 2015 tax rate has increased, in 2014, the rate was $4.93. Today the rate is $5.17. Certified tax rate is based on $100 per assessed valuation. Simply, a property valued at $100.00 would pay $5.17 or a little over 5%. If you would like to see the additional tax rates Muncie and Delaware property owners pay, please look at Delaware County 2015 Budget Order here. Of course, property owners are protected with tax caps or we would be experiencing 2007 property tax crisis all over again.
It is a common belief among economists and those who follow TIF districts nationally. Tax Increment Funding increases the tax burden on all regardless if you live in the TIF district. It makes sense as Muncie has expanded and created TIFs capturing tax dollars which would be designated for schools, libraries, and various other taxing entities. Those specific taxing entities, in turn, must increase their levies for funding and the cycle becomes vicious. In addition, economic revenue may take years to realize if it does at all.
Capital investment, according to Todd Donati during his four years as Delaware County Commissioner, ran about $230 million. It is been close to seven years and no financial return in the county. Still as broke as they were in 2009.
I digress. On to the financials of Muncie City.
Currently, Muncie is holding a debt for the next 24 years of $64,285,942. (See report)
The debt was decreased by approximately $4 million in two weeks. (See report)
Two possible reasons for the decrease come to mind. The city paid off debt although nothing has been in the paper. Or the debt was transferred to another bond and the paperwork has not caught up with the transaction. Hard to say at this point.
Muncie TIF dollars (which the general fund or other taxing units will never see) amounts to $49,748,322. Two weeks ago is was $54,437,236. It appears to reconcile with the decrease in total debt.
If you still don’t believe TIF districts are expensive, consider the $30 million in just interest alone. I would also like to point out, these figures do not appear to include the Village garage at $5 million or the hotel at $30 million. All of the debt included in these reports confirmed with loan documentation, which leads me to believe nothing is available on the Village or hotel. At least not on public
More to read:
If you care to read the ruling from Indiana Department of Education, you may find it here.
Muncie Community Schools has some daunting issues and no plans on how those will be addressed. No plan for transportation and possibly no cost savings for the high school consolidation or closing.
Muncie Community School’s waiver request was denied by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE).
IDOE says the waiver was denied because the district’s plan was “insufficient and fails to demonstrate that Muncie has formulated a sufficient plan that provides for the safe movement of eligible students to and from school,” as required.
Muncie Star Press 1-11-14
We weathered (pardon the pun) a snowstorm. A major casualty when a snowplow caught fire. A total loss to a county with no money. and with hopes to recoup the loss with outside funds. The driver escaped injury, and that is definitely something to rejoice over. The next big weather event will be flooding. Can’t wait.
None of us will be looking forward to the utility bills. This storm is going to be expensive for everyone.
The filing season has begun and will continue until February 7th. As expected, some of the old gals and guys will be looking to continue their tenure or switch positions. Mayor Tyler and his crew were ecstatic in 2011 all of his good friends were now controlling both city and county. No excuses, he said. There are, though. It’s not their fault, it’s yours. The judicial race is pretty much sewn up for me.
Another big event is watching the Muncie Sanitary District as they slowly slide into the $168 million storm water project. Removing Steve Murphy from the board and replacing him with Joe Evans was a major turning point. Joe was an intricate player in the Royerton Sewer Fiasco and so one must entrust him to a project 168 times more expensive. My prediction is: you will be paying a lot more.
No matter where you choose to live, you just can’t get away from the crew. Although we looked for homes in Royerton, the expensive sewer bills deterred us. Neighboring county, Hamilton, is looking like a good place to retire in 10 years. Talk about progress.
We live in a strange little area. While we constantly talk about bridging the gap between town and gown, as soon as a gown addresses the town all bets are off the table.
Yesterday, a local economist Dr. Cecil Bohanon, (one of my favorites) wrote another column. This one titled Why Politics is so Nasty is really a non-partisan look at our current political climate. Many good points made and the one which resonated with me “it is so much more fun to be entertained than to have to think through a serious argument.”
Fortunately, one doesn’t need to travel far for entertainment.
“Of course one of the big problems he ignored was the amount of money ij politics today and Cecil is a fully owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers. ” wrote a local poster in the newspaper chat section. The person attached a link to PDF document as proof, I suppose. 30+ pages of grant information complete with graphics. I’m sure many took the time to read it. Not.
I had read the document earlier, so I just skimmed through the pages. Yep, the dude was right. Dr. Bohanon received a $2,000 grant from…drum roll, please…
Charles Koch Foundation
All the proof one needs right there in black & white. Perhaps the informed poster was first alerted to the connection from reading the Muncie Squeak.
Have a nice weekend, y’all.
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 »