Gary school district delays paychecks due to funding shortage

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Gary Community School Corporation's 700 staff received letters on Friday informing them that their paychecks would be delayed. (WLS)

Paychecks for Gary Community School Corporation teachers and staff were delayed until Tuesday because the school district couldn't meet its payroll.

About 700 employees received letters on Friday informing them that their paychecks would be delayed. And this is not the first time.

"Pay day was this last Friday which was a holiday. Our state allocation comes in on the 15th of every month. So Tuesday is the 15th, so we will distribute checks on the 15th," said Cheryl Pruitt, superintendent of Gary Community School Corporation.

The district's payroll will go through on Tuesday, but there's no guarantee this won't continue to happen until a permanent solution to the district's funding issue is found.

Gary is in deep financial trouble. With an ever smaller tax base and a property tax cap in Indiana, most of Gary's school funding comes from the state.

A referendum that would have raised taxes to help erase the district's $75 million debt load failed to pass last week. And the district's financial specialist has said that the school corporation could be dissolved, or merged into another school district, leaving Gary's 6,000 public school students looking elsewhere for their education.

"I'm very concerned for my grandson's education. Right now, he's at one of the A-plus schools in the city," said Gary resident Leona Gray. "I'm just concerned what will that be a choice for him and for his parents moving forward.

"I do feel like you do have to leave in order to get your son, your children a better education," said resident Cassandra Murphy.

For now, it appears the solution, if there is one, will likely have to come from the state of Indiana.

"We have been in continuous communications with our state representatives and state senators," Pruitt said. "I don't want to say too much, but I'm pretty excited about what may happen. There is an opportunity to change the dial."
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