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Proposal calls for closing 3 schools in Hammond, Ind.

Decreasing state aid has left the Hammond district with a projected deficit of $10.2 million by 2020.

The new superintendent of the Hammond (Ind.) district is recommending the closure of three schools to help close a gaping budget deficit.

The Times of Northwest Indiana reports that Scott Miller's plan calls for the shuttering of Hammond’s Columbia, Lafayette and Miller schools, as well as the elimination of 130 to 150 positions ranging from administrative and teaching staff to transportation, custodial staff and more.

The proposed reductions come as administrators look to navigate financial woes that could leave the district with a deficit of more than $10 million by the end of 2020.

District administrators have attributed much of the district’s financial troubles to a state education funding formula that, in recent years, has seen changes detrimental to rural and urban school districts.

Miller says that 90% of the school city’s operating budget comes from state funding and the other 10% from taxes.

With recent changes to the state’s complexity index, which grants aid to districts based on student poverty levels, the Hammond district has lost millions of dollars in the last several years.

In 2014, the school received $28.2 million in complexity funding. Matt Reuss, a financial consultant to the district, predicts the district will receive only $15.7 million in complexity funding next year.

Hammond has also experienced significant declines in enrollment.

All told, the district is predicted to run a $10.2 million deficit next year if it does not reduce its operating budget.

The Hammond school board is scheduled to vote on Miller’s recommended closures and staff reductions on Tuesday.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep our schools open, to keep as many programs running as possible, to keep the student-teacher ratio as low as possible, but here we are,” Miller says. “We’re spending beyond our means. Like all of us, we can do that for a little time, but eventually you end up under the water. That’s where we’re going to be if we don’t make the tough choices.”

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