Muncie voters reject tax increase for school buses

Published: .
Updated: .

The city of Muncie rejected a proposed property tax increase for school busing in that community, so now parents are scrambling to figure out what that means for their children and when.

The state may have its first casualty because of its property tax caps. That cap has cost Muncie Schools almost $22 million over the last three years and voters here defeated a referendum to make up the difference.

Now children in the community might be paying the price.

There is no such thing as a free ride and Muncie public schools know that better than anyone. So bus rides to and from schools in the district will stop June 4.

"We do not have the surplus to cover the cost," Muncie Superintendent M. Tim Heller said Wednesday.

Property tax caps cost the district $8.7 million this year and $6.5 million in each of the two previous years. The district hoped the voters here would support a property tax increase to fund busing in the future but that failed.

"I have no idea what will happen," Melissa South said, standing in the doorway of her house as she listened for the two three-year olds playing inside.

She has four children in all. Two ride the bus and they only have one car.

"My daughter goes to elementary school. She goes three to four blocks that way, but it is a very busy road, also. She's seven years old and, I mean, I don't want her walking by herself when it is dark outside to and from school. She's by herself and there are no sidewalks or anything," South said.

The South family's neighborhood does not have sidewalks. She says their only option is to have her husband take her daughter to school an hour early or report late for work.

"We are disappointed because of the safety of our youngsters and they come first. Getting to school everyday, we feel like this will hurt our enrollment. It will hurt our attendance," Heller added.

The district is considering closing some schools and consolidating others. That vote will come on November 18.

"I am hoping they take one of those options, even though they already had the vote, maybe they can come up with something. Some other way to keep it going," South said.

Muncie has applied for a waiver from the three-year process to eliminate busing so it can cease busing on June 4. The State Department of Education will come and conduct a public hearing on the question soon, but no date has been set.

Muncie may be the first, but a number of other districts are watching this very closely because the caps are hurting a lot more districts than just Muncie.