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After many years of operating at a deficit, GCSC achieves surplus

After many years of operating at a deficit that ran into the tens of millions of dollars, the Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) recently announced that it achieved an annual surplus at the end of 2021.

This development is a watershed moment for GCSC, where poor financial management led to state intervention.

“Achieving a balanced budget is a landmark occasion, especially after GCSC ran a deficit of more than $20 million,” said Eric Parish, Executive Vice President of MGT, which was charged with managing the district out of the deficit. “This accomplishment is due to many difficult decisions made by the State of Indiana, the MGT team, and district administrators, as well as the Gary community’s overwhelming backing of the 2020 referendum.”

GCSC’s deficit stood at $21.5 million when the state appointed MGT as the external manager in the summer of 2017. Since then, the deficit has steadily fallen each year to the point where there’s now a $2 million surplus:

“This represents the first step toward a stable foundation for financial sustainability,” said Justin McAdam, Chair of the Distressed Unit Appeal Board (DUAB). “Reaching a surplus is quite an accomplishment, and you all should be proud of this. There are many who played a role in reaching this milestone – in particular the Gary community and voters who voted to raise their own taxes to provide greater financial support to this district.”

A combination of strategies contributed to the reduction in the deficit. First, the community’s support of the 2020 referendum has been invaluable, adding approximately $8 million in annual revenue.

UnknownSecond, the school district has adjusted its staffing levels to better reflect the students it serves. As an example, GCSC had 56 administrators (not including principals or deans) making more than $4 million (not including benefits, bonuses, or travel). These staffing levels were a holdover from when GCSC’s enrollment was many times higher than it is today. Accordingly, there are now dozens fewer administrators across GCSC.

Third, the school district has opened bidding on many of its contracts, leading to competition among vendors and giving GCSC the opportunity to select the most affordable option.

It’s important to note that GCSC has eliminated its deficit while investing in academics. Over the last five years, teachers have received raises for the first time in a decade as well as three stipends. The school district has also invested in new curricula and new career pathways, distributed a laptop or tablet to every student and teacher, and improved learning environments.

“Our team’s priorities are student safety and student academic success, and we have done the work to ensure our budget reflects these priorities,” said Dr. Paige McNulty, GCSC’s Manager. “A lot of people put in a lot of time to make this happen, and we’re grateful for their efforts to create the conditions where more students can be successful.”

As the deficit has decreased, so has the district’s total debt. When MGT began managing the district in 2017, the short- and long-term debt stood at $104 million. Today, it stands at $71 million.

Moving forward, GCSC plans to build stability and sustainability. The district has a plan to build its reserves while also making strategic investments in capital, repairs, and maintenance. Additionally, GCSC will continue to pay down its negative fund balances while further intensifying its emphasis on academics.


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