Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Referenda Results: In Boone Township, Every Vote Counted In Special Election

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    Five of the seven Indiana school corporations asking for tax levy increases succeeded in Tuesday's special election.

    Four more votes — that’s all it would have taken to tie a close election in Porter County Tuesday night. The Metropolitan School District of Boone Township asked voters to approve a 23-cent tax levy increase per $100 of assessed valuation: 543 said yes, 547 said no.

    Boone Township already has one of the highest tax rates in the state. But it hasn’t been enough to make up a shortfall in state funding.

    “Once again, funding for education depends on where you live,” says Superintendent George Letz. “I don’t know why the legislature does not ever get that point across that there’s still unequal funding in the school districts of Indiana.”

    Five of the seven Indiana school corporations appealing to voters for additional funding succeeded at the ballot box Tuesday. The other loser was the Knox Community School Corporation, which had hoped to raise $16 million to rebuild part of its elementary school.

    “The building can’t last forever in the state it’s in,” Knox Superintendent A.J. Gappa told Lakeshore Public Media‘s Steve Walsh.

    Here’s a quick look at what happened in Tuesday’s special election.

    Construction Referenda

    • Hamilton Southeastern: Nearly 68 percent of voters said yes to a $95 million plan to add onto the two high schools. As part of the 13.5-cent levy increase, Superintendent Brian Smith told StateImpact the district will add more classroom space for project-based learning.
    • Knox Community School Corporation: About 55 percent of voters rejected a 28-cent levy increase that would have generated $16 million to replace a part of the elementary school built in 1950. Superintendent Gappa says that part of the building is outdated and can’t handle current technology needs, so it’s likely the school board will have to revisit the referendum in a future election.
    • Noblesville Schools: Sixty-eight percent of voters approved a 10-cent tax levy increase to build a $28 million addition at the high school. Once completed, freshman who now attend classes at a separate ninth grade building will be moved to the main campus, freeing up space for middle school students. The district plans to sell the old East Middle School building to the county, which will in turn lease the space to Ivy Tech.

    General Fund Referenda

    • Barr-Reeve Community Schools: Nearly 83 percent of voters said yes to a 35-cent tax levy increase. The district had spent down its rainy day fund to overcome a shortfall in funding from the state, Superintendent Travis Madison told StateImpact. Passing the referendum means the district will be able to hire replacements for eight teachers who plan to retire at the end of the school year.
    • MSD of Boone Township: Just four votes determined the fate of a proposed 23-cent levy increase to bolster the school’s general fund. Superintendent Letz says the district has been especially hard hit by property tax caps and has even tried to recruit out-of-district transfer students to raise additional funds. Without money from the referenda, he says he’ll have to cut nine teachers.
    • School Town of Munster: Voters approved a 19.9-cent general fund referendum by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Superintendent Richard Sopko had warned “draconian” cuts to elementary art, music and PE programs would be on the horizon if the measure failed. But the proposal passed easily.
    • Union Township: About 58 percent of voters agreed to a 22-cent tax rate hike to raise additional money for local schools. Superintendent John Hunter says he ran a targeted campaign in hopes of getting 700 voters the district identified as likely to say yes to the polls. Nearly 2,000 ballots were cast.


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