Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom


Indiana schools have to seek voter approval for large construction projects and levy increases outside the property tax cap.

Why Do Schools Ask Voters To Raise Their Own Property Taxes?


Because of newly-minted constitutional limitations on the rate at which Indiana schools can tax property, more and more districts are likely to turn directly to voters to offset shortfalls in state funding.

There are two types of school questions that can appear on the ballot in Indiana — construction referenda and general fund referenda. The former funds major facilities projects, including new construction and building renovation. The latter deals with school operating expenses, which can include everything from teacher salaries to transportation expenses.

Between 2008 and 2013, 92 school questions appeared on the ballot in Indiana — and voters approved half. It’s not uncommon for districts to ask two or three times before voters say yes. Of the 14 districts that have pursued multiple referenda, six have made three or more appeals.

Often, school districts scale back their requests the second time. That’s because for every 10 cents a district asks for, the referendum is one to two percentage points less likely to pass.

Researchers say Indiana is still relatively new to school referenda, and it’s too soon to tell what impact elections will have on school budgets. But you can keep track of which districts have — and haven’t — passed their tax levy increases using our referenda scorecard.


Latest Posts

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. “It’s an affirmation of the achievements and hard work of teachers and administrators have put into improving the academics in our schools,” […]

What's At Stake For Indiana Schools In Tuesday's Election

Rusting pipes in the basement of Snider High School would be replaced if voters in the Fort Wayne Community School District approve $119 million in building projects and infrastructure repairs. More than half of the district's 51 school facilities would receive upgrades if the referendum passes.

Voters in Fort Wayne Community Schools, Indiana’s second-largest school district, are weighing in on a $119 million construction referendum that would pay for building projects at 36 of the district’s 51 schools, upgrading HVAC systems, replacing windows and restoring the masonry. “I wouldn’t even call them improvements,” said John Peirce, vice president of the Fort […]

Low Enrollment Brings Letter Grade Results Into Question

North White Primary School has received an A for the last two years.  The year before that, the school received a D.

Remember report cards from elementary school?  Whole semesters spent filling out worksheets, taking tests, preparing class projects, writing papers– all of it adding up to a final letter grade. But what if instead, all grades were based on a single test?  For Indiana’s schools, this is how things are. It’s a predicament which causes superintendent […]

How Indiana's Neighbor States Handle Referendums

This is a ballot from 1956.  Included is a request for $900,000 for construction of a new school facility.

There is only one way for schools in Indiana to raise money– ask voters to increase their property tax bill. Indiana’s neighbor state’s like Illinois, Michigan and particularly Ohio have used this systems for years.

Discussion: Does Consolidation Hurt Students?

Should school districts with fewer than 2000 students be required to consolidate?  Governor Mitch Daniels says such a move could could save taxpayers millions by removing layers of red tape and administration cost.  Many school administrators aren’t convinced. We’ve been covering this issue, but we want to hear feedback from you.  Leave us your comments, […]

Why Governor Daniels Thinks Small School Districts Should Consolidate

Governor Mitch Daniels backed a piece of legislation which would have forced schools with low enrollments to consolidate with neighboring districts.  The bill was eventually defeated.

About 20 percent of school districts in the state are rapidly facing a choice: either pass a referendum or consolidate with a neighboring school district.  In 2007, Governor Mitch Daniels commissioned a study titled “Streamlining Local Government” (also known as the Kernan-Shepard Report). Among other findings, was a simple suggestion– eliminate all school districts with […]

Are Indiana's "Rich" School Districts Getting Richer?

Election season is upon us, and aside from the usual blustering politicians and hopefuls, there’s another question appearing on ballots across the state: Will voters raise their own taxes to support local school districts? Political predictions are notoriously difficult to make, but the past can be a guide. We took a look back at the […]

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