MUNCIE — The Indiana House voted 77-19 on Thursday for a bill that places deficit-ridden Gary and Muncie schools under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.
The legislation next goes to a four-member House-Senate conference committee that will try to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Highlights of Thursday's debate from the House floor:
• Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who estimated Muncie's budget deficit at $18.7 million:
" … it's also reported in the Muncie Star Press that they have a ($10.7 million) capital bond they got in 2014, a capital-project-fund bond, that they used for operations … it's also allegedly reported that in December 2016, in a tax warrant they had, that they wrote a check on Dec. 29, put it in the U.S.Postal Service snail mail while they were awaiting their electronic transfer of money into their account to cover the check. Kiting.
"They have delayed maintenance of buildings. There have been two temporary outages of heating this winter where Muncie had to actually close down for the day. They have vendors … allegedly not being paid on time. They only get paid if they come to the business office and make a complaint … They have potential payroll problems this summer … They were making plans to come … to ask for state money going forward."
• Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City:
"We have to admit that the reason a lot of our school corporations are in financial difficulty is because of policies we made here in this very chamber … It's not just Gary; it's not just Muncie. There are school districts throughout Indiana that have been struggling to keep up with these wholesale changes in education … The best thing we can do for them is correct some of our school policies, correct some of our school funding mechanisms. Stop with the wholesale changes in policy and regulations! Let these school districts adapt and not have new bills every single session that they have to catch up to."