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Schools In Disrepair As Terre Haute, Vigo County Weigh Budgets

  • HVAC

    Image 1 of 3

    Photo: Tyler Lake

    North Vigo Assistant Principal Aaron Hughes says the school's HVAC system is constantly in need of repair.

  • tour in class

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    Photo: Tyler Lake

    The high schools held open houses this week to give the public a close up of what the schools are up against.

  • electrical system

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    Photo: Tyler Lake

    Hughes says the school's electrical system is outdated.

Walking through North Vigo High School, it quickly becomes evident why school administrators are pleading for renovations.

“You walk in everyday not knowing what the next crisis is going to be,” says Assistant Principal Aaron Hughes.

Hughes has several responsibilities as the assistant principal, including school improvement, safety and security, and facilities management. That last duty is taking up a lot of his time.

“The electrical’s really not up to code for a computer lab,” he says, pointing to outlets in the lab.

“You walk in everyday not knowing what the next crisis is going to be.”

—Aaron Hughes, Assistant Principal, North Vigo High School

Plumbing needs fixed, the roof leaks, and the HVAC system is always under repair, he says.

“It blew apart at probably 11 o’clock one morning during school, and this entire academic wing went straight to heat,” Hughes says, adding inconsistencies in temperature don’t make for a suitable learning environment.

The long list of needs also includes equipment upgrades and simple resources for students.

The other high schools in the county are in need of renovations as well. The school board is even considering constructing new buildings, which is the most costly option. But it’s not clear yet how the board would pay for either repairs or new construction.

Michael Howard has two kids who attend North Vigo. He says a tax increase would be worth it, but a referendum would only waste time.

“I would stress to the community members and tax payers, come out look at the facilities,” Howard says. “A referendum will only delay this process to get started, and the timing needs to start as soon as possible.”

City and county officials are facing budget problems of their own. City leaders are trying to climb back from a nearly $8 million deficit. County Council members are trying to cut nearly $7 million from their budget while considering a public safety tax to increase revenue for a new jail.

  • leaks

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    Photo: Tyler Lake

    The school's roof leaks and the plumbing needs repairs.

  • Howard

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    Photo: Tyler Lake

    Resident Michael Howard attended North Vigo's open house this week He says a tax increase would be worth it, but a referendum would only waste time.

Property tax caps, which have been in place since 2009, have had a major impact on Terre Haute. Purdue University Professor of Agriculture Economics Larry DeBoer says the caps limit home owners payments based on their assessed value.

“Terre Haute is losing more than 30 percent of their tax levy to their tax caps, which means 30 percent of the revenue that they intend to collect from the property tax is not collected,” DeBoer says.

DeBoer says the best solution to the financial woes is to generate more property taxes, which he says would help the schools.

“Economic development tends to generate population growth, and population growth tends to generate economic development,” he says. “More population means more kids. More kids means more state aid.”

But that’s easier said than done, DeBoer says.

“We’re talking about a lot of tax increases, but I think one that definitely needs to be focused on is the education.”

—Michael Howard, Vigo County Resident

Still, as a parent and someone who works in a neighboring school system, Michael Howard says finding ways to fund schools should be the first priority.

“We’re talking about a lot of tax increases, but I think one that definitely needs to be focused on is the education, the schools first, prior to some of the other projects on the table currently,” Howard says.

Hughes says he and other school staff work with what they have, but there’s only so much they can do.

“What’s behind everything, what’s on the other side of these tiles above us, and behind the walls and lockers and everything, there’s just a lot of issues,” Hughes says. “We know what those are. Not everyone sees them, but we know what they are.”

He says he doesn’t care whether the school is renovated or rebuilt, he just wants a solution.

The Vigo County high schools have been holding open houses during the summer. There will be another open house on Sept. 14. The city council meets the same day to discuss the city’s budget.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

  • lastcamp2

    A properly maintained building should last almost forever. Where has the administration been while this “deferred maintenance” has grown into a perceived need for new construction or total renovation?

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