Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tribune Reports Mishawaka Schools Hire Consultant for Finances

From the South Bend Tribune:

 Mishawaka schools could soon get a second opinion on its financial woes.
Because of Circuit Breaker tax caps, officials say, the district needs to save or cut upward of $10 million by 2020.
A $28 million referendum was attempted last fall to upgrade schools and technology. But, voters rejected it rather than pay higher property taxes.
Superintendent Terry Barker said he intends to ask the school board at its meeting next week to approve the hiring of the firm Speicher Fields & Associates to study the district’s finances and ultimately recommend a strategy for going forward.
“One complaint (voters had) of our referendum campaign,” Barker said, “was that we did not communicate … So this is a second go-round to just kind of provide that greater opportunity for a broader spectrum of input.”
At least two school board members will support Barker’s request.
“I think it’s a good idea,” board President Dennis Wood said Monday. “I just feel like if we get a second look at it, the board would be really comfortable … (Though) it’s not like anybody is doing anything wrong.”
The end result of the consultants’ work could be a recommendation to cut the budget and save the money, implement revenue-generating tactics or pursue a second referendum, Barker said.
Asked if that means all money-saving options are now back on the table, the superintendent said, not exactly.
“Obviously,” he said, “If we’re looking at repairing furnaces at Hums (Elementary School) and replacing ceiling materials, I’m not going to put Hums back on the (chopping) block.”
Months ago, the school was pegged for closure, but after a public outcry by parents and others, Barker decided to keep it open.
“But, if we still have to save money when we go into next year,” he said, “we will have to take a look at the facilities that we do have. Do we keep them all open or shut one down because of operational cost? Does it mean we push centralized kindergarten (again)? We might study it.

“Our intent is to just bring a fresh set of eyes, a fresher process,” Barker said. “Let somebody else take a look at this.”