Muncie IN schools borrow $10 million to consolidate, renovate buildings

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - It took Muncie Community Schools less than an hour to indebted property taxpayers $10 million over the next decade to renovate Central for consolidation and heat and cool other schools.

Even the local Tea Party was not really against the borrowing from an Indianapolis bank and handled by Indianapolis attorneys and accountants, given it will not necessarily raise taxes.

Two other bonds, one financing construction of Wilson Middle School that is closing, will be paid off, allowing the schools to borrow more without raising taxes over the current debt.

And schools must borrow because it does not have capital funds to replacing heating and cooling in five schools and do other renovations including work at Central to make way for nearly 1,000 students. The school board just moved Wilson to Southside and made Central the only high school in the system.

Jim Arnold, of the Tea Party and Citizens for Good Government, referred to the latest revenue grab as a done deal as the board heard objections, approved the bond and then agreed to spend it once it was available.

A taxpayer remonstrance can bring the state to review the plan, but Arnold made no commitment to continue the fight,The Tea Party just beat the schools on an effort to raise taxes to pay for transportation and Arnold warned that taxpayers hoped that schools were done taxing and spending for a while.

School Board President Tony Costello said he could not guarantee what future school boards do, but he declined to recognize that the current board that also included Robert Warrner, Michael Long, and Deb Feick, indebted taxpayers for the next nine years.

Warrner objected to the appearance that the financing and work was "a done deal." The school board spent months looking at plans besides some of the work had been put off for years.

And Pat Kennedy, president of the Muncie Teachers Association, said the group did not have a position on the bond, adding she wanted to make sure the financially strapped school system did not lay off teachers or cut money for academic programs.

Other property owners wanted to ensure local labor gets some of the work that also involved roof repair building renovation and other floor refinishing.

Costello said it was not possible to guarantee local contractors or labor or even skilled labor in a Right to Work state that also requires schools and government to take public bids and then the lowest and best.

The work will been governed by common construction wage law and a committee made up of school, taxpayer, labor and contractor representatives decide on wage scales.

Some of the work like the Central renovation will begin this summer while other work might take longer.


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