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Gary school district is paying its bills and growing, annual deficit down to $1.7 million

Contributed By:The 411 News

While some partners hoped for better outcomes

Gary public schools finances have long been underwater, its revenues unable to pay its yearly expenses. By 2017, the district had $22 million in expenses it could not pay which led to the state takeover.

During its monthly meeting with the state’s Distressed Unit Appeal Board Wednesday, Gary school officials reported on the district’s turnaround – paying its bills and growing.

“From securing overwhelming support from the community and boosting enrollment to getting its financial house in order, there are more and more signs that the Gary Community School Corporation is on the right track,” said Dr. Paige McNulty, GCSC manager. “The hard work of students, teachers, and families, combined with the support of the referendum and the School Improvement Fund, is creating momentum in our schools and across the city.”

Ricardo Cepin, a member of the financial management team said the yearly deficit had dropped to $1.7 million as of December 2020. His timeline of deficit reductions showed $6 million at the end of 2019; $18 million in 2018.

The district’s long-term debt in 2017 was $104 million; today it’s at $76.5 million.

“Once we include fund balances, the deficit is actually $5 million,” Cepin said, pointing to the district’s operations fund which has a negative balance. The district’s education and debt funds balances are in good shape.

“It’s a phenomenal accomplishment and testament to all the work you’ve done,” said Justin McAdam, DUAB chairman, “going from $22 million to $1.7 million.” McAdams said revenues expected to be collected by the passage of the 2020 referendum will help turn the negative balance in the operations fund to a positive.

The DUAB approved the district spending $4 million to repair roofs at Bailly, Bethune, Career Center and phase 1 of roof repair at West Side. The DUAB also approved the 1-year extension of a student bus transportation contract.

Manager McNulty said the district gained 65 new students in the 2020-21 school year, the largest in 10 years. Improvements by the corporation have also resulted in agreements with area charter and district schools for their students to use the Gary Area Career Center.

Prior to each DUAB meeting, individuals are allowed to speak to the board for 3 minutes, voicing their concerns about the district. At the March 31st meeting, two partners of the school district put another light on the Gary schools.

Michael Ensign, business developer for First Student, a former provider of student bus transportation in the district spoke. “I have never before felt obligated to speak at a public comment session.” Ensign described “unethical” behavior by school administrators when his company submitted a bid for the current bus contract. “Our company may not submit another bid to the Gary schools,” Ensign said.

Gary Teachers Union President GlenEva Dunham said, “I believe that the current team leading the Gary school corporation is probably the most difficult yet I have seen.” Dunham said teacher morale is very low and there is no collaboration between the teachers and administration.

“As a union, we have worked cooperatively with MGT every time a new emergency manager was delivered to us. But not so much with this one,” Dunham said. “I urge you to really find out what is going on, on a daily basis with Gary Community Schools. If teachers and paraprofessionals aren’t being respected, I can tell you the same is happening with parents and students.”

Story Posted:04/02/2021

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