Monday, January 4, 2010

MSD Decatur Township Should Sell Excess Properties and Cut Administrators

The Mooresville-Decatur Times reported on December 9, 2009, that the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township must cut $4.2 million from its budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins in July. Superintendent Don Stinson and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Baer blew lots of smoke by blaming the crisis on temporary loans the District floated due to the reassessment ordered by Governor Mitch Daniels a couple of years ago. Did the District have to float those temporary loans? Sure it did. Is that what is breaking the bank? No way.

The crisis is brought about due to the unfettered accumulation of debt orchestrated for the District and the taxpayers by Stinson and Baer and rubber stamped by the hand-picked School Board members, Dale Henson, Don Huffman, Cathy Wiseman, Judy Collins, and former member Larry Taylor (replaced almost two years ago by Doug Greenwald). They have been on a buying spree the last 8 years. In addition to the construction projects (more on the $85 million High School project in a later entry), they pay $750,000 per year on a lease to own agreement with Ameriplex Office Partners, LP, for the purchase of the Concentra Building across Kentucky Avenue from the High School campus, bought property abutting Lynwood Elementary School, bought property abutting the Middle School, and bought a number of parcels spanning from Mooresville Road to Camby Road. Not content to live within the District's income parameters, they have also floated bonds so we could pay into their Pensions over time - with interest.

With the tax caps coming on, several changes are occurring this year. The State has taken over the entire payment for operating expenses; part of this used to be paid with property taxes. But, debt payments and transportation costs will not be paid by the state. Thus, if property tax revenues are not enough to cover debt and transportation, a District must use some of their operating funds to pay the remainder of the debt payment due. Debt must be paid first. With the property tax caps, thankfully, dropping to a cap of 1% of a home's assessed value, the property tax revenue will not be enough to make payment on Decatur School District's outstanding debt. This leads to the need for Stinson and Baer to dig deep into the Operating Funds supplied by the State to make the debt payments this year.

So is the response of Stinson and Baer to sell off property and cut back on Administrators and shut down their plans to move the Central Office over to the posh confines of the Concentra Building? Hell, no ! They blame comparatively small temporary loans and Jeff Baer announces his retirement. I mentioned in the last blog entry that they have brought mall cops in to protect the High School and to save money despite their lack of training for crises. More to be announced at the next School Board meeting. Unfortunately, the District website does not list any Board meeting dates for 2010.

In addition to the $4.2 million that needs to be cut because of the huge debt incurred by Stinson, Baer, and the rubber stamping school board members, Governor Daniels has announced a 3.5% cut in all K-12 school funds. This could amount to roughly $1.5 million more to be cut.

Here is a list of the items that should be looked at first in order to generate money and cut costs.

1) Scrap all plans to move the Administrators from the Central Office to the Concentra Building and move the technical staff to vacant rooms at the Junior High School, Lynwood or Stephan Decatur Elementary. Since they do not own the building, but are leasing to buy to the tune of $750,000 per year, they can sell their lease. They have been paying on this lease to buy for 5 years now. So, even if they have to sweeten the deal by throwing in one year's payment to a buyer, they still should be able to secure $3 million from the equity.

2) Sell the property at 4640 Sante Fe Drive. They tore down the house that used to be on the quarter acre property, causing a drop in assessed value from $83,200 to $13,800. But $13,800 is still real money that can help the cause.

3) Sell the two parcels at 5006 S. High School Road - just north of the Middle School. Combined it is almost 3 acres improved with a house and the zoning remains residential. Surely they can get $150,000 - $200,000 for the property.

4) Sell the 33 acre property at 7900 Camby Road. Farmland has been going for over $11,000 per acre. So, look for about $330,000 from that sale.

5) Sell the 73 acre property at 7820 W. Mooresville Road. At $11,000 per acre a sale would generate over $800,000.

6) Sell the 10 acre property at 7912 W. Mooresville Road - making about $110,000.

7) Sell the 41 acre property at 8106 W. Mooresville Road and get another $450,000.

8) Keep the 18 acre property at 8900 W. Mooresville Road. It was donated to the School District. Unfortunately Stinson picked a location that is mostly wetlands and the cost of development is prohibitive, making the property pretty much worthless.

Selling these properties should generate something like $4.9 million. That will go a long way is trying to make it through the year without laying off teachers.

But, there is more they can do with the Administrators. As mentioned, Jeff Baer is leaving and being replaced by Perry Township's Bob Harris, at $15,000 less salary than Baer. Rumor is that Candice Baer is also leaving. A duplicate Administrative position was created for Candice Baer, wife of Jeff Baer, when she was dismissed as Superintendent of Center Grove Schools a few years ago. That should save at least $175,000 in salary and benefits.

The District should give a pink slip to Susan Adams. Yes, the Susan Adams of Perry Township School Board fame gets an Administrator's salary to be the head custodian of Decatur Schools. She can easily be replaced with a real custodian for a savings of at least $100,000 a year. Likewise, Gary Pellico, a very likable fellow, who serves as the Public Spokesman for the District. You do not need a former Principal at a hefty Administrator's salary to communicate with the public. That would save another $100,000 a year.

Expect Dave Rather, Assistant Superintendent in charge of the building projects, to retire when the High School project is completed. Unfortunately, his salary and benefits have been coming out of the bond funds used for the project and the taxpayers will be paying his salary and benefits off, plus interest, for decades to come. No savings here.

The remaining Administrators should be asked to take at 10% cut in pay. This could save nearly half a million dollars a year. All totalled these Administrative changes could generate about $850,000 a year. Added to the funds generated by selling excess property we could see over $5.7 million this year - exactly matching the $4.2 million shortfall due to overextended debt and the $1.5 million due to the 3.5% budget cut ordered by Governor Daniels.

One more thing - no matter what, the School Board should demand that employees who live in Decatur Township should be the very last to be cut. This would mostly be the bus drivers, custodians, a couple dozen teachers, and one administrator.


Anonymous said...

Run for trustee

Had Enough Indy? said...

Unfortunately, the Township Trustee does not run the School system. If he did they wouldn't be in the financial meltdown they are now in.

Anonymous said...

Good analysis....I imagine someone with inside knowledge could REALLY find some shocking numbers in the MSD of Wayne Township. With a superintendent making in excess of 225,000 with benefits, ALL KINDS of cuts could be made across the board.

Its going to take a lot of parents and voters showing up at both Wayne and Decatur school board meetings.

Anonymous said...

I do not think enough people are educated about what is really going on in the inside of the school district. Therefore, people do not realize how badly messed up the school system is. Hopefully there are enough people that care about their kids education that this will all get straightened out eventually. It is not going to be easy and I am sure it will not make any new friends but it has to be done!

Had Enough Indy? said...

Thanks Anon 8:11. I agree with you about "ALL KINDS of cuts". And the voters need to consider voting out the rubber-stampers who allow these Superintendents to go hog wild. I remember being shocked that IPS Superintendent, Eugene White, refused the request of a board member for more information about the budget. And doubly shocked that the rest of the board supported White. Where is the accountability? What exactly do the Board members think their responsibility is?

And Anon 7:05 -- I have long believed that the low number of hires from our Community is to keep the information from the Community. So, those who do know the state of affairs in the District should try to get the word to their neighbors and friends.

And, remember, at the end of the day, if someone's salary impacts the number of teachers hired and thereby the class size - that will have a direct impact on the quality of education provided to Decatur's students. The Board needs to truly represent the Community's interest in education as well as taxes - not simply represent the interests of the Superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Why do they alway look at the people who live pay check to pay check to cut? When, all these people who work in the upper positions. Are making so much money they dont know what to do with are just rolling in money. Leave the hard working people alone. This all must come out to the public. We should stand together as one. And, protect out peoples jobs.

Anonymous said...

i really wish the people of Decatur Township knew the real figures that they are PRETENDING to cut, but are really not saving our township money.

Anonymous said...

Did they hire bob harris, perry township so susan adams perry township, could have another underserved promotion? Did she recommend him for the job and then got a promotion on top of that? Why cant he handle both jobs and get rid of her? We dont need all these administrators. What a crock! What will they be up to next?

Anonymous said...

Okay but do you even know why they lease the concentra building across the street from the high school? So that kids who have messed up and need a second chance have somewhere to go. And if you really knew anything you would know that even if one kid graduates from there then it is worth all the money that was spent on it.