TERRE HAUTE, Ind (WTHI) - Superintendent Dr. Robert Haworth addressed the current state of the Vigo County School Corporation tonight at the regularly scheduled school board meeting.
He provided members of the board and those in attendance a detailed slide show of the district’s current status, how the district got to this point and where the district is going.
Dr. Haworth talked about financials, staffing and the corporation’s programming status.
He explained the Vigo County School Corporation’s cash balance has declined for the past three years.
According to the presentation, some of the outside factors playing into this are decreased state funding, inflation, decreased federal funding and a decline in the total number of students.
Also contributing factors are decisions that have been made for a better Vigo County School Corporation.
For example, the increase in the total number of staff, especially for safety and wellness, subsidizing the tax cap impact on transportation, subsidizing textbook fees and attracting and retaining top staff through meaningful raises competitive with local districts.
Dr. Haworth explained we cannot just look at what got the district to this point, he said it is critical we look to the future.
He spent a significant amount of time on addressing staffing concerns.
Dr. Haworth explained there is a teacher shortage and the Vigo County School Corporation is feeling it.
He said the district is struggling to fill open teaching positions.
He explained forty-two positions were filled by long-term substitute teachers during the last school year.
Dr. Haworth’s presentation talked in detail about Vigo County’s starting teacher salary not being as competitive as teaching opportunities in neighboring school districts.
Starting salaries for several nearby districts were shared in the slide show.
Dr. Haworth said technology is another significant concern for the corporation, as the district has many needs.
Dr. Haworth discussed the need to provide better equipment, the need to get in line with other school districts and the need to make upgrades to the network and wireless systems.
Another section of the presentation discussed a building project with a goal of a Capital Projects Referendum by May 2021.
The Capital Referendum must be approved by the voters, funded by property taxes and in place for twenty years.
Dr. Haworth talked about the impact this could have on the taxpayer and approximately what it could cost someone.
He gave examples and shared comparisons from neighboring counties.
Dr. Haworth then ended the presentation with talk of solutions.
He said a strong school system can attract growth in Vigo County.
He said there is no simple solution to address both the current needs and future needs of the school district.
The following suggestions were explained tonight.
Do we consider an 8 million dollar reduction? (Does not address staffing)
Do we consider an 8 million dollar operational referendum? (Does not address staffing)
Do we consider a 10+ million dollar operational referendum? (Address staffing)
Or, do we consider a combination of the two approaches?
Dr. Haworth went over several tried-and-true ways to reduce costs.
Those included: restructure buildings, reduce staff, freeze wages, buyout long-term staff, restructure staff compensation, continue ignoring years of service in hiring and reduce transportation services.
He then explained more about the operational referendum and that everyone contributes to it.
(Homeowners, renters, those on fixed income, farmland owners, and commercial property owners, those below the cap & those above the cap)
Overall, Dr. Haworth explained that moving forward the best course of action is a combination of budget reduction and an operational referendum.
He said the Vigo County School Corporation would trim $4 million in operating costs and the community would fund $7 million through an operational referendum for safety, health, wellness, transportation and staffing. Both, he said, could secure the Vigo County School Corporation’s finances for future growth.
Dr. Haworth said the question for the operational referendum will be brought before the school board in July.
The school district will hold public forums to discuss this further and those meeting times, dates and locations will be released later this week.