INDIANAPOLIS—A proposal to establish a working group of financial specialists, local leaders, and the state’s Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB) gained Senate approval Tuesday after weeks of advocacy from State Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary).

During a floor speech, Sen. Rogers outlined a timeline of events leading to the current financial situation experienced by the Gary Community Schools Corporation. She noted that loss of property tax collections from major corporations like U.S. Steel, a drop in revenues from property tax caps, and declining residential and student populations have all played a part in destabilizing a once-thriving community.

“There’s no doubt Gary schools and the students they serve face enormous challenges,” said Sen. Rogers. “To make progress, Gary schools need proactive intervention by the people with the most invested, our neighbors.”

To set Gary Community Schools on a path towards success and economic recovery, the measure approved today would create a plan of action where local officials, school board members, a financial advisor of the board’s choosing and the DUAB would work together to create the school’s recovery plan.

The first step in this process calls for a public hearing where community members would be given a presentation on the school’s current status. From there, the DUAB would present the Gary Community School Board with three suggested financial advisors from which they may choose. The chosen financial planner would assist in the board’s management and assist in debt management during that time.

In order to take immediate action, the board would have the authority to delay or suspend any payments of principal or interest from the Gary Community School Corporation on loans from the common school fund. The board will also have the ability to submit a proposal to the State Board of Finance for an interest-free loan from the fund which may be granted for up to six years.

The proposal was approved as part of the state’s biennial budget proposal, House Bill 1001, The Indiana General Assembly has until April 29 to approve the budget.