By ELIZABETH DESANTIS
The Monroe County Community School Corporation superintendent is calling attention to a major staff shortage ahead of an education referendum.
Superintendent Jeff Hauswald says the MCCSC has more than 120 open positions for food service workers, bus drivers and teachers.
Those positions account for nearly 8% of the 1,500 employees that MCCSC’s department of human resources says it takes to operate the 21st-largest school district in the state.
Hauswald says many of the district's food service workers and bus drivers have left for higher-paying jobs in the community. And some prospective teachers say they just can’t afford to live in Monroe County.
For reference, he said, a McDonalds restaurant down the road from Bloomington South High School is hiring workers for $14 per hour. The minimum hiring rate for MCCSC staff is $13.15 per hour.
Hauswald says he hopes a new referendum this fall could raise that rate to $15.
“We want to be attractive in our salaries and have our salaries at or above state averages, to have good hiring salaries to be able to compete with other school districts,” he said last week at a Bloomington Economic Development Council meeting.
“State funding has not kept up with inflation. So that’s one of the reasons why our wages have not kept up with inflation, or why we haven’t been able to set our wages at the rates and our salaries at the amount that we believe is necessary to attract or retain qualified staff,” he said.
Some 93% of potential referendum funding would go toward salary increases. The other 7% would fund expansions in the special education department as well as advancements in STEM and arts programs.
The school corporation is operating under a referendum passed in 2010 and renewed in 2016. According to an update on MCCSC’s website, the corporation will seek a new referendum in the fall.
If the referendum isn’t renewed or a new one passed, Hauswald says the MCCSC would have to cut $7.3 million from the budget. This reduction would mean the elimination of at least 100 positions and a freeze on salary and wage increases as well as a reduction in programming and services.
Since the current referendum was first passed in 2010, there has been a cumulative inflation rate of almost 32% --meaning that the $7.3 million would actually have to be $9.6 million to have the same purchasing power as the amount did in 2010.
MCCSC operates at one of the lowest tax rates in the state at only 55% of the average. Even with the increase, Monroe County would still be at the bottom 10% of taxing districts in the state.
“We are one of the lowest taxing rates in Indiana; we are proud of that,” Hauswald said. “We want to be fiscally responsible, but we also know that through our series of conversations with the community, they expect us to be the best.”
In the next month, the MCCSC website will add a tax calculator so community members can see how the referendum would affect them.