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Schools weigh options after voters nix tax hikes

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School districts across the state continue to struggle in their attempts to win voter approval for operating money or building projects, which a researcher attributes to continued worries about the economy.

Four of the seven school referendum questions that were on the ballot were defeated during Tuesday's primary, according to Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

More than 80 percent of the voters in the Oak Hill United school district voted down a proposal to fund construction of a $28 million school that would have brought all elementary grades together under one roof. Leaders of the district split between Grant and Miami counties some 50 miles southwest of Fort Wayne don't know what they'll do next.

"I have an estimate on my desk for $138,000 to replace 1959 water equipment," district Superintendent Joel Martin told the Chronicle-Tribune of Marion. "Can we find the money? Do we do preventative maintenance or do we find money to replace equipment? That all has to be decided."

The school referendum process has only been around in Indiana since 2008, when a state law was passed letting voters decide whether to give more money to school districts.

Oak Hill district resident Chris Jackson said he voted against its tax request because he didn't see enough justification for it.

"We know there are repairs that need to be made," Jackson said. "We want to see reasonable estimates for what needs to be done. Let's see what it will actually cost to repair things."

Voters have rejected 40 of the 67 school referendums in that time, but districts will likely continue asking for property tax increases since state funding isn't keeping up with their costs, said Terry Spradlin, director of education policy at the IU center.

Besides the Oak Hill rejection, voters also defeated referendums for Franklin Township schools in Indianapolis, the Avon school district and the North Adams Community Schools in Decatur. Voters approved requests from the Crown Point schools and requests for operating and construction increases in the Perry Township district of Indianapolis.

"The results are indicative of shaky consumer confidence and the economy," Spradlin said. "And still, an anti-tax increase climate remains."

Crown Point School Board member Scott Angel said voters' approval of the additional money will help avoid the potential layoffs of 48 teachers and demonstrated support for the schools.

"There'll be no cuts. Everybody should be able to retain their jobs," Angel told The Times of Munster.

In Franklin Township, more than 60 percent of the voters opposed a tax referendum after a similar request lost there in 2009.

District Superintendent Walter Bourke said the results closely followed the demographics of the area in that the majority of residents don't have children in the school system.

Bourke said he expected the district will move forward with plans to cut about 80 teaching jobs, close three schools and eliminate bus transportation.

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  1. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.

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