April 15 may have just passed, but it’s nearly time to think about taxes once again.
Spring elections are just two weeks away, and that means schools will look to their local communities for help covering a wide range of expenses – from building renovations to transportation and maintenance costs.
Referenda have become increasingly more common as a method to fund public schools since 2008, when lawmakers implemented property tax caps. Since then, the portion of tax money that could be distributed to school corporations has shrunk.
Thirteen Indiana school districts will ask for 17 separate tax levy increases on the ballot May 5. Brownsburg, Perry Township, Beech Grove and Valparaiso are each asking voters to approve two questions – one construction project and one school tax levy.
Here’s a list of referenda that will appear on various local ballots May 5:
- Brownsburg Community Schools will ask for 41.17 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to pay for the construction of a new elementary school, in addition to renovation and improvements to the area high school. The district estimates upgrades will cost no more than $95 million.
- Community Schools of Frankfort is asking for 42 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for $30 million to renovate Frankfort High School. The project has been in the works for awhile, according to the Clinton County Daily News.
- New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation wants 20.04 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to build two new schools – Green Valley School and Slate Run Elementary School – and renovate three existing buildings: Floyd Knobs Elementary, Greenville Elementary and the Prosser Career Education Center. The projects’ price tag will total about $79.9 million. The Courier-Journal reports the campaign to promote this measure has relied on grassroots support.
- Perry Township Schools is looking for 13.46 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to fund a $50 million venture dubbed the 2016 Strong Schools, Strong Community A+ Project. The initiative would provide 89 additional K-5 classrooms, as well as restrooms, cafeteria and kitchen spaces and middle school music areas “to meet the currently anticipated student growth needs” and plan for the future of the community.
- School City of Beech Grove would like 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to go toward $8.8 million earmarked for upgrades to the Beech Grove High School band and choir facility, as well as renovation and improvements at four local schools: Beech Grove High, Beech Grove Middle School, Hornet Park Elementary and South Grove Intermediate School.
- Valparaiso Community Schools is asking for 64.82 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to raise $150 million. District leaders hope to finance a “Multi-Facility Safety, Security, Technology, Construction and Restoration Project” to renovate all or a portion of multiple existing school facilities, as well as install technology and other equipment.
- Warsaw Community Schools will ask for 13.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in order to raise $39.9 million to replace Lincoln Elementary School, as well as fund renovations at Washington Elementary and Edgewood Middle School.
General fund referenda
- Brownsburg Community Schools is asking for 4.78 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to fund what district officials say are “funding costs related to providing educational services,” including staffing and operational expenses of the new elementary school proposed in Brownsburg’s construction referendum, which is mentioned above. RTV6 reporter Anne Kelly says the measure has drawn mixed responses from community members.
- Gary Community School Corporation will ask for 41 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to help offset a $23.7 million budget deficit. The district has struggled with low test scores and school grades for a number of years, most recently leading to a State Board of Education vote to close the citywide middle school. Gary leaders say the money raised through this tax levy will allow schools to preserve teaching positions and minimize programming cuts.
- Hanover Community School Corporation would like 29 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to maintain and expand academic programs, student safety and transportation.
- MSD Wayne Township will ask for 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to assist with funding “daily educational operations.”
- Perry Township Schools will ask for 42.12 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Driven by projected growth in the district, school officials would like to extend current academic and support programs, in addition to continuing transportation services and building maintenance.
- Pike County School Corporation is looking for 29 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to continue providing educational services to the community.
- Rising Sun-Ohio County Community School Corporation would like 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, also citing a desire to continue providing educational services to the community, specifically setting aside funds for staffing and operational expenses.
- River Forest Community School Corporation will ask for 42 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to fund teaching positions, staff positions and educational programming.
- School City of Beech Grove is asking for 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The district says funds will go toward transportation, purchasing buses, student safety measures and building maintenance.
- Valparaiso Community Schools will ask for 20.42 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to pay for restoring teacher positions and maintaining educational services. The NWI Times reports that this levy will help close a budget shortfall the district has experienced since 2008.
You can also check out our referenda scorecard to see how voters in Hoosier districts have weighed in on similar ballot measures since 2008.
The 18 school-related measures being proposed this spring far outnumber the mere two that appeared on ballots last November. As we’ve reported, research indicates that referenda offered in May have a better chance of passing, since spring elections are often primaries (no presidential or other big races), so they typically see a great turnout of the most motivated, pro-referenda voters.
Recent statistics bolster this theory. This time last year, nine out of ten educational referenda around the state passed – one of the best rates the state has seen. Since November 2008, a little more than half of the 104 school-related referenda proposed in Indiana have passed.
Results for the 10 referendum questions will available on StateImpactIndiana.org May 6. You can also follow results live May 5 on Twitter by following @StateImpactIN, @morellomedia and @ClaireMcInerny.