Major cuts proposed to solve IPS funding dilemma

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce has come up with a plan to fix the Indianapolis Public Schools’ budget deficit while sparing homeowners from major tax increases, but that plan also includes major cuts across the district.  

The new proposal would raise $152 million through a roughly 5.7 percent property tax increase.

The plan includes a $52 million for capital and $100 million for operating expenses.

READ | IPS to ask for $52 million from taxpayers for school safety

The new proposal is a drastic drop from IPS’ initial $1 billion proposal last year, which included $200 million for capital and $736 million for operating expenses.

After months of assessment, IPS settled on a $52 million capital proposal last month but has not decided how much is necessary for operating expenses.

The capital funding will be used, in part, for school safety features including 2,500 retrofitted doors, new lighting, strengthening windows with a special film and fire safety improvements across the district.

Both the Indy Chamber and IPS will submit separate proposals to the Indianapolis Public School's Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

While the Indy Chamber's proposal would be lighter on taxpayers' pockets, it also comes with proposed drastic cuts across the district, including half of IPS' Central Office staff, reducing the teacher workforce by 12 percent and getting rid of more school buildings.

The chamber says there are currently 43,000 available seats in the district, but only 31,000 students.

The plan would also increase teacher pay by about 16 percent. 

“IPS loses 25 percent of its teachers every year," said Allan Hubbard, business leader for the assessment. "That is incredibly costly, but more importantly, it’s harmful to the education system. By increasing, dramatically increasing, teacher pay they are going to be able to reduce turnover. They’re going to be able to retain the great teachers they have and that is what benefits education.”

Another recommendation made in the chamber's proposal includes having Indianapolis students ride IndyGo buses to school, instead of school buses. 

A pilot program was launched in May with Shortridge High School and Arsenal Tech High School students to see if the IndyGo buses could be a reliable form of transportation for students. 

READ | More IPS students could soon be riding IndyGo buses to school

The district says 213 students participated in that pilot program and were happy with it. 

It will undergo a new test in August when school resumes and students from those two schools will participate in the program. 

The goal is to eventually have all 4,000 high school students who ride school buses transported by IndyGo buses. An additional 1,000 students currently get to school on their own. 

Tuesday, the school board will vote on the latest proposal.

The proposed tax hikes are expected to be on the November ballot.

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