Franklin Township school district faces $13M shortfall

WTHR file photo of the Franklin Township School Board

Jennie Runevitch/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A local school district proposes millions of dollars in cuts unless voters approve a referendum this spring. Those cuts would include dozens of teachers, elementary music and art programs and most student busing.

In growing Franklin Township, there are growing financial problems where proposed budget cuts could be deep..

Proposed staffing cuts include 81 teachers, 4 administrators, 3 guidance counselors and 4 media (library) assistants.

"81 teachers, that's a lot of teachers," said AJ Patiag, Franklin Central senior.

The cuts also call for the elimination of all busing, with the exception of special needs students ($2.3 million savings); the closing of three schools, (Acton, Wanamaker and an intermediate school); eliminating art, music, and physical education from elementary schools; eliminating orchestra from the high school and a reduction of building maintenance budgets.

"Music's like my daughter's favorite thing," said Rachel Turner, parent.

"It's really frightening for the children," said Melinda Pantazis, teacher.

The district faces a $13 million budget shortfall. Voters rejected a referendum last year, causing teacher cuts, reduced busing and pay-to-play athletics.

Now with even more debt and less money from property taxes and the state, there's a new round of proposed cuts that are much more serious.

Eyewitness News has learned the cuts would be implemented next year if voters don't approve a referendum in May.

Franklin Township is the first local district to propose cutting transportation all together.

"Cutting all busing is kind of one of the most important things, so I think that's a little shocking," said AJ Patiag.

Cutting all busing would be especially tough in Franklin Township because the community is spread over several miles and there are virtually no sidewalks for students.

"A traffic jam and a very big safety concern for the kids," is what teacher Jennifer Frost envisions.

The district hasn't determined exactly how much passing the referendum would cost the average homeowner. But many fear its failure and these cuts would cost students far more.

"We moved here for these schools, for the Franklin Township schools. Wow," said Turner.

Despite potential cuts, parent Carol Churchill plans to vote against a tax hike in Franklin Township.

"My husband works. I stay home. Four kids. We can't afford the extra money going to the taxes for the schools," she said. "It's hard to look at a football stadium and give them more money for other things."

"It's a tight economy and there are a lot of people who are worried about their housing and their taxes and you know, we're going to have to sell it," said teacher Melinda Pantazis.

The school board will present the budget cuts next Monday (Nov. 22). A vote could come in December.

Franklin Township is among several districts suing the state over school funding formulas, arguing that the current system unfairly penalizes growing districts.