Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Voters Say 'Yes' To Six Of Seven School Issues On Tuesday's Ballot

Fort Wayne Board of Trustees Vice President John Peirce breathed a sigh of relief as results came in Tuesday night. Voters approved a $119 million construction referendum 2 to 1 at the polls.

“Now we can fix some of the problems in our infrastructure and improve the learning environment.”
—John Peirce, vice president, Fort Wayne Board of Trustees

“It’s an affirmation of the achievements and hard work of teachers and administrators have put into improving the academics in our schools,” Peirce said. “We wouldn’t have succeeded – at least not by this margin – if not for the progress we’ve been making.”

Indiana voters said “yes” to six of seven school districts appealing for additional funding on Tuesday’s ballot. Fort Wayne, Crawfordsville and Northern Wells received the go ahead to proceed with school construction projects, and voters within the Duneland, Oregon-Davis and Zionsville corporations agreed to increase the tax levy in their communities.

Only East Allen County was unsuccessful in a bid to pass a $88 million construction referendum. Funds would have been used to expand New Haven High School into a seventh through 12th grade building and renovate Paul Harding High School. The project faced opposition within the community, and New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald told The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette he’d vote against the referendum. About 36 percent of voters supported the district’s plan.

In the state’s second largest district, 36 of 51 Fort Wayne schools will be renovated or repaired with the passage of the referendum. Aging infrastructure at Snider High School had Peirce “scared to death” in the weeks and months before the election after the district had to call in an outside crew to fix major leak.

“Now we can fix some of the problems in our infrastructure and improve the learning environment,” Peirce said, adding that low interest rates and competition for construction jobs would help the district lock in the best possible deal.

In other districts:

  • The Crawfordsville School Corporation will be able to build a new Tuttle Middle School after voters approved a $35 million construction referendum. According to Superintendent Kathy Steele, the old building had “major structural issues” and lacked the computing facilities necessary to take state tests.
  • The third time was the charm for Northern Wells Community Schools. The district has been trying since 2007 to make upgrades to Norwell High School. Voters twice rejected plans to improve the school before passing Tuesday’s referendum 2 to 1.
  • In a close race, voters agreed to a 22-cent tax levy increase for the Duneland School Corporation. The district had said it would have to cut at least 18 additional positions if the levy failed but might be able to re-hire some positions if it passed.
  • Community members told school officials in Oregon-Davis they would rather put a tax increase on the ballot than see the district merge with a neighboring corporation. Voters approved the 19-cent increase 699 to 383.
  • Zionsville voters approved a 24.4-cent tax increase after the district said it would have to cut teachers and adopt an austerity plan if the levy failed. Last year, the district successfully appealed to voters to allow it to restructure its debt after a proposed 29.5-cent increase failed in 2010.

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