Muncie IN schools wants to raise taxes again for yellow buses

School lunches cost more in 2014-15 at cash strapped public school

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) -  Muncie's cash poor public school system will again ask taxpayers and parents to bail out transportation and food service costs.

Mark Burkhart, the schools' retiring financial officer, explained more than a $1 million would be needed to fund a three-year transportation contract with M&M after anticipate revenue and Rainy Day funds were depleted after two years.

Voters rejected the school system's tax referendum last year, but Burkhart said the schools could still seek an excess tax levy to support shortfalls in transportation funds.

 The bus system took bids on transportation and ended up with the same bus contractor that has been charging over $3 million to operates buses.

Burkhart said seven fewer buses were needed in the new deal with the closing of Wilson, and M&M's cost was about $2.6 million, along with the school system's $194,565 for activities buses.

That $2.8 million cost would be supplemented by a $2 million Rainy Day fund and other transportation funds limited by property tax caps.

But only an excess levy or other tax hike would cover the entire expense over the next three years. The school board, lead by Tony Costello, declined to say why the school system did not sign a one year contract instead of indebting a future school.

Costello also declined to respond to one property owner's concern that the schools should look out for taxpayers instead of spending money the schools don't have.

Muncie schools has more than $50 million in debt for school renovations and other projects and just consolidated to one high school and closed Wilson Middle School, that last new school built.

Even more costly to parents is food service at schools will go up a dime or a quarter. Burkhart acknowledged the schools were spending more than they were raised in revenue. 

And he, like other school administrators complaint, said tax caps passed by state lawmakers were robbing public schools of necessary funds.