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School referendums voted down in several districts

November 2, 2010

Voters shot down school referendums in several central Indiana districts Tuesday, including Zionsville, Anderson, Center Grove, Mount Vernon, Shelby County and Elwood.

Meanwhile, a school building-project referendum was barely approved in Lebanon. Other school referendums passed more easily in Hamilton County, Monroe County and Brown County.

Zionsville School Corp. sought additional funding for operating expenses, but 61 percent of voters rejected the request.

The referendum would have added 29.5 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed valuation, resulting in an additional $5.8 million to avoid a shortfall in the district’s $64.9 million budget. Administrators warned of teacher layoffs and program cuts if the referendum failed.

Also in Boone County, the Lebanon Community School Corp. sought a referendum to fund a building project, which includes $40 million in renovations to its high school, middle school and four elementary schools.

Voters approved the request by only 35 votes.

The referendum will increase the property tax rate for debt service by a maximum of 66 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed valuation.

Also on Tuesday, 72 percent of voters approved Hamilton Southeastern Schools' request for more funding to build more facilities.

The proposed $62 million project calls for a $2.5 million conversion of Hamilton Southeastern Junior High into a freshman center, and the construction of a $37.5 million junior high and $22 million elementary school.

School officials estimate the district's property tax rate for debt service will increase by 9 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed valuation. Officials say the new debt will not result in a tax increase because the district will be retiring older debt obligations.

The Hamilton Southeastern district serves about 17,000 students and has been growing at a rate of about 1,200 students annually since 2000, school officials said.
 
The freshman campus would occupy the junior high school facility on Olio Road beginning in the fall of 2012. The new junior high would be constructed at Cyntheanne Road and Greenfield Avenue on land already owned by the school district. The new elementary school likely would be constructed on district-owned land on the east side of Fishers between 136th and 141st streets.

HSE voters last year overwhelmingly passed a $38.5 million referendum to shore up the distict's budget.  School districts seeking General Fund referendums are attributing their shortfalls to property-tax caps and dwindling tax revenue taken in by the state due to the recession.

Statewide, 17 school districts sought additional tax dollars through referendums on Tuesday. A state law passed in 2008 requires a referendum to give voters the opportunity to approve a district’s request for additional money or to raise property taxes beyond established caps.

In other General Fund referendums:

— Anderson Community School Corp. sought a property-tax hike of 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, but 70 percent of voters said no.

—Center Grove Community School Corp. was rejected by 57 percent of voters in its request for a 15-cent hike per $100 of assessed valuation.

— About 73 percent of voters rejected Elwood Community School Corp.'s request for a 50-cent increase per $100 of assessed valuation.

— Northwestern Consolidated Schools in Shelby County sought an additional 11.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, but 53 percent of voters rejected the request.

— Community School Corp. of Southern Hancock County was rejected by 61 percent of voters in a request for 24 extra cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

— Westfield Washington Schools received approval from 54 percent of voters for an increase of 23 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

— Mount Vernon's school board sought to add a maximum of 12.33 cents per $100 of assessed value to the tax rate on property in the district for each of the next seven years, but 59 percent of voters rejected the request.

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