Indiana Lawmakers Can Prevent Senseless Job Loss in Hoosier Schools
Muncie, IN It’s not everyday that Indiana lawmakers, democrat and republicans alike can come together and save potentially thousands of jobs in Indiana and it won’t cost one penny. Nobody will get taxed, and no fees will be assessed to parents. It will make sure there are more teachers in the classroom educating our children in 2014-2015. These once in a lifetime opportunities don’t come along for Hoosier politicians very often in this modern-day of polarized politics.
What are we talking about?
During the 2012 legislative session, lawmakers included protected tax language in a bill affecting how schools handled their different funds. Due to the requirements imposed, we are now experiencing unintended consequences – mainly undue restrictions which have minimized dollars flowing into the different school fund accounts.
For Muncie Community Schools, we lost 89% of the funds to be used for bus transportation in the 2014-15 school year. We thought it was isolated to Muncie School District, but it’s not.
Over 20 schools around the state have lost from 50-100% of the their bus transportation funds.
Initially, like MCS, schools are thinking they have to raise more taxes from their local community, but they don’t have to if lawmakers simply change the restrictive language in the law.
According to Sen. Tim Lanane (D), “We’ve talked with many legislators and nobody understands the intent behind protected taxes”.
Some Hoosiers question that it was protection for bondholders, but bondholders have very specific rights contained within the bond agreement giving them access to the full taxing authority of the bond issuer. In our case, Muncie Community Schools has the power to tax property owners and the money flows to bondholders before anything else would get paid. Further insurance is the State would step in to make sure bondholders got paid from revenue collected.
So, knowing all that, what can we do to avoid losing jobs in Muncie and elsewhere in Indiana?
It’s simple. Lawmakers need to be made aware of this error and change the “protected tax” language. This is where Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie and Sen. Tim Lanane of Anderson come in to play. They’ve met with local residents on two separate occasions to discuss Amending the protected tax language with two concurrent bills – House Bill 1021 and Senate Bill 144.
You can get more information from a Facebook page created to discuss the bills and keep everyone updated.
After the failed bus referendum in November, and some initial savings by revising bus routes, Muncie Community Schools still expects to face a $2,000,000 shortfall meaning they’ll have to take monies from the General Fund (used to pay wages and benefits) to pay for yellow school buses. This could result in eliminating 40 teaching jobs for the 2014-15 school year.
Both representatives are working diligently with other lawmakers in Indianapolis to get their bills heard. Nobody wants to see Hoosiers losing their jobs due to poorly worded laws. It’s avoidable, so we need to support our legislators by contacting other representatives who are involved either directly or indirectly in resolving this issue.
The contact information for Committee Chairpersons are listed below:
Contact Representative Tim Brown on the House Ways and Means Committee and tell him to give HB 1021 a hearing:
Statehouse: (317) 232-9651
In District: (765) 362-7024
Contact Senator Brandt Hershman on the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee and tell him to give SB 144 a hearing:
Phone: 800-382-9467 or 317-232-9400
As we learned today, there are similar bills moving through the process in Indianapolis that both representatives are hoping to help shape with their proposed Amendments. HB1062 is being heard on Tuesday morning and SB163 is being heard on Thursday. Sen. Lanane said, “These bills don’t exactly help our situation, but since they are in the process, we may be able to get the language changed or add our bills to the ones in process”.
Both representatives urge us to attend the hearings in Indianapolis. Mark Burkhart told us, “There is a lobbyist representing all the school corporations in Indiana who will be pushing hard for amending the protected tax language since it does negatively impact a minimum of 22 school districts.”
You can follow the bills on Indiana’s website: http://www.in.gov/billwatch/.
Another way you can help is share this information with people you know who lives in the below listed school districts.
Have them contact their state representatives. Again, the negative consequences of the restrictive language in the 2012 bills can be easily avoided if the lawmakers simply are made aware of it, and follow through to change it.
The individual state lawmakers affected are:
Michael Delph (R) – Zionsville
Doug Eckerty (R) – Elwood; Anderson; South Madison; Frankton-Lapel
Travis Holdman (R) – Jay County
Luke Kenley (R) – Westfield-Washington
Patricia Miller (R) – Franklin Township; Beech Grove
Pete Miller (R) – Avon
Earline Rogers (D) – Gary; Lake Station
Greg Walker (R) – Edinburgh; Franklin; Clark-Pleasant
Carlin Yoder (R) – Concord
R. Michael Young (R) – Decatur; Wayne
Richard Young (D) – Cannelton
Lloyd Arnold (R) – Cannelton
Terri Jo Austin (D) – Anderson
Robert Behning – Decatur; Wayne
Steven Braun (R) – Zionsville
Charlie Brown (D) – Gary; Lake Station
Woody Burton (R) – Clark-Pleasant
Roberty Cherry (R) – South Madison
Greg Beumer (R) – Jay County
Cindy Kirchhofer (R) – Beech Grove
Jack Lutz (R) – Elwood; Frankton-Lapel
John Prince (R) – Edinburgh; Franklin