FORTVILLE, Ind. — Voters in the Mount Vernon Community School Corporation area voted to support the corporation when they went to the polls on Tuesday.
In December, the Mount Vernon Community School Corporation (MVCSC) board of trustees approved a resolution to place a $0.17 operating referendum on the May 3 ballot. The referendum would generate an estimated $3,201,691 annually for the corporation.
Jack Parker, superintendent of MVCSC, says they have been working on the referendum for a while, as they anticipate revenue shortfalls.
“We have a revenue shortfall in our operations fund because of some of the special funding that Mount Vernon has been privileged to have for close to 10 years is going away,” said Parker. “So we’re losing about a third of our operating fund revenues, and this operating referendum will make up for part of that, not all of it.”
That special funding was put in place in 2012 when Mt. Vernon was experiencing financial issues. The state passed a law in the corporation’s name that restructured its debt for 10 years, providing about $3.3 million annually. MVCSC says that funding supported around a third of its operations fund revenue.
The funding runs out in December, creating a deficit that will impact the district’s ability to provide support for 4,500 students. The corporation has been working over the last few years to minimize the impact losing this funding will have.
“We’ve been doing lots of work to save money and to reduce costs in our cost in our district,” said Parker.
Some of this work includes spending cuts in staffing and changes in insurance. They also put out around $7 million in bonds and conducted energy savings projects. Even with these savings, MVCSC has not made enough needed to recapture the full operations fund revenue loss.
Without the referendum funding, Parker said the corporation would have needed to implement a hiring freeze and increase class sizes. They would also experience even more difficulties in retaining staff members in an already difficult time.
Around half of the corporation’s staff members aren’t making $16 an hour, almost 100 aren’t even making $15 an hour. It would also make it more difficult to keep teacher salaries competitive.
“This is probably one of the most difficult times in education, as we’re coming out of the pandemic and seeing the incredibly diverse needs of our students both academically for sure and then socially,” said Parker. “That’s a really big deal, and the job’s just so much harder. We want to make sure we keep our wonderful teachers and be able to recruit more as we grow. That’s why this referendum is really important to us.”
On Tuesday, the referendum passed with just over a 300 vote margin. 54.9% of voters voted to approve the operating referendum.
"We are excited to be able to continue our trajectory and move forward with supporting all the great things we do with our kids and keep our class sizes low," said Parker.
Now that the referendum passed, MVCSC said it will be a step to secure adequate funding to continue to operate at a functional level. This funding pays for staff like maintenance, bus drivers and custodians along with utilities, buses, and maintenance.
The referendum funding also lets the corporation provide a pay increase for teachers and staff members and provide additional school resource officers. Parker said it will take time to start using these funds.
"It takes time to get those revenues into our bank accounts so that we can begin using them to help provide additional pay for our teachers and our classified staff," said Parker. "We'll be developing plans on how to do that and phase all of those things in as quickly, as we absolutely can, and we're starting that work right away."
Parker wanted to thank the community for coming out to support the school district and its students. He says he is happy that their continued relationship with the community is so strong.