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Sale of two Gary schools approved by the board

Updated: November 5, 2012 10:21PM



GARY — The Gary school board passed a measure Monday night that will sell two schools to its building corporation in order to generate revenue to pay its bills.

The sale of Williams Elementary School and Banneker Achievement Center is expected to generate an estimated $20 million. The district is in dire need of funds due to declining enrollment and it’s facing a $4.8 million budget deficit in 2013.

Attorney James Shanahan said the buildings will be appraised and sold to the nonprofit building corporation, who will issue the bonds for the general fund, capital improvements, debt service and other district expenses. The district will pay an amount to lease the buildings and eventually own them.

As a result of the sale, tax bills will increase by 8 cents per $100 of assessed value starting in 2014. Board member Nellie Moore said the measure doesn’t mean the district is relinquishing ownership of the buildings.

“It’s an option we’ve exercised to generate much needed funds,” she said.

Board member Barbara Leek said the district’s present funds are inadequate for judgments entered against the school corporation, so the agreement was necessary to pay vendors. Board president Darren Washington said several districts — namely Michigan City and Highland — have utilized this process since the state property tax caps have been in effect.

In the past, the district has conducted three sales to the building corporation in order to pay for construction or building improvements at Glen Park Academy, Marquette Elementary, and Frankie Woods McCullough Academy for Girls.

Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the measure was crucial to the district’s future.

“Yes, we are living in a recession,” Dr. Pruitt said. “Yes, revenue is certainly harder to come by. But these are the kinds of innovative ideas that’s going to net this District the support we need to turn things around. Funds will be used to repair our buildings and service our students.”



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