posttrib
SMOOTH 
Weather Updates

More cuts ahead for the Gary schools

Updated: April 25, 2013 2:41AM



GARY — Budget woes continue to dog the Gary Community School Corp. as school officials learned this week they face a projected 2013 deficit of $12.8 million.

Chief Financial Officer Nikita White offered a list of projected budget cuts to the board, but no action has been taken yet.

White suggested the board consider $2.5 million worth of cuts to administrative and teaching positions. She also recommended reducing teachers’ supplemental pay, eliminating all non-grant funded travel expenses and reducing the purchase of supplies in all departments.

The school district has been confronted with reduced revenue brought on by a declining enrollment, low tax collections, and property tax caps. In addition, a new state school funding formula has made deeper cuts because of the elimination of the “de-ghoster calculation.”

White told the board the budget she submitted to the Department of Local Government Finance in October still has not been approved, so the $12.8 projected deficit is an estimate.

“The buck stops here around this table,” said board member Nellie Moore.

She worried if students began enrolling from three of the city’s charter schools that could be closing that the school district wouldn’t receive the per pupil funding from the state and could face steeper deficits.

The state funding count is taken once a year in September. A second count was taken on Feb. 15, but it won’t impact funding.

White said she planned to monitor the budget closely after she discovered the district overspent last year by $12.1 million.

“We should have cut based on the amount of revenue coming in,” she said.

The district has been bleeding red ink lately, delaying payments to vendors and skimping on supplies, although Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt denied Moore’s assertion that teachers and custodians were told not to order supplies, such as toilet paper.

Moore said she visited a school recently and there wasn’t toilet paper in the restrooms. She said teachers complained of not having paper, pencils or crayons.

“We have not said you can’t order,” Pruitt said.

“There’s a breach between your reality and the reality we have in those 16 schools,” Moore said. “There’s a disconnect from what you have and what the building people think.”

The school district faced a $22.5 million shortfall in 2011 and had to cut $14.6 million last year in the wake of reduced state funding.

To help pay its debts, the School Board approved a $5.7 million judgment bond late last year.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.