VIGO COUNTY, Ind (WTWO/WAWV) The Vigo County School System’s finances were on full display during Monday night’s school board meeting, as residents learned that the corporation has been deficit spending since 2016, resulting in a cash balance decline of more than 8 million dollars.
“We believe that things are catching up to us, continue decline in enrollment,” Vigo County Superintendent Dr. Robert Haworth said. “We’ve made a substantial commitment to protecting our children’s health, safety and wellness. We want to continue to protect that but that comes at a cost.”
The news came toward the end of the Vigo County School Board meeting Monday night.
School Superintendent Dr. Robert Haworth says that the decrease in money is the result of reduction of state and federal funding and student enrollment, as well as an increase of students living in poverty.
According to the Department of Education Compass Website, VCSC enrollment has declined by 1,292 students over the past 10 years.
During the 2018-2019 school year, there were more than 15,115 students in Vigo County; however more students in the county are choosing not to attend Vigo County School Corporation. About 820 students are choosing alternatives to education like attending virtual schools, being homeschool or attending another public school all together.
Haworth also attributes the lack of funds to the school’s focus on increased public safety and wellness such as hiring police officers, nurses and counselors.
VCSC now has a Student Protection Officer in every school which is up from just eight officers throughout the entire corporation in 2012. The school has also doubled the number of nurses from five to 10 and has increased the number of counselors by 40 percent since 2014.
An increase in transportation costs and text book fees are also contributing factors, according to Haworth.
In the past few years, the corporation has reintroduced field trips back into the curriculum, transportation costs have increased and the corporation has also absorbed 2.2 million in textbook fees over the past five years.
Though the number of staff has increased, VCSC is having a hard time filling essential positions such as administrative assistants, bus drivers, food services, teaching positions and more. Starting teacher salary is not as competitive as neighboring districts with the starting salary at $35,000.
With the $8 million cash, the plans to construct and update the three high schools and keep up with the corporation’s other schools.
The second part of the presentation focused on the improving corporation facilities.
In May 2021 school officials plan to hold a referendum to generate funding that would renovate the high schools and school corporation buildings. Dr. Haworth says there is no simple solution to address both current needs and future needs. He says the best course is a combination of budget reduction and an operational referendum.
“We are asking our community consider is the possibility of an operational referendum in November that does not address the 8 million, it addresses a part of that 8 million because the school corporation will be trying to remove 4 million dollars from its budget over a 2-year period,” Haworth said.
“I was pleased to hear how the school superintend and the school board have listened to the community,” Vigo County Councilwomen Lisa Spence-Bunnett said. “We’ve got to pay attention to the whole picture of what are taxes are costing for the things that are important to Vigo County.”
The school plans to hold public forums to get the input of residents. The times and locations will be announced in the upcoming days.
If everything goes as planned, Vigo County residents will get a chance to vote on the issue this November.
For the full board presentation, click here.