IBJNews

Indiana voters trending against schools in tax votes

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana taxpayers may not be in the mood to pay for bigger, better schools in tough economic times, but they're more willing to help school districts make ends meet in most cases.

That's what the results of a series of property-tax referendums on school issues held last week across the state seem to say, according to lawmakers and other experts.

"The message to the school corporations is you have to start living within your means just like every other Hoosier family has to," said state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel.

Voters last Tuesday voted down three proposed school building projects. The one to win approval — in southern Indiana's Southwest Dubois district — was for renovations, not new construction. Eight of nine school construction projects were rejected in previous referendums this year.

Districts that asked for permission to raise property taxes beyond a new state-mandated 1-percent cap next year to meet operating costs fared better, with two out of three winning approval Tuesday.

"I think the public looks at that a little differently than they do bricks and mortar," said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.

Faced with the prospect of more crowded classrooms or eliminating bus routes, voters generally sided with school officials.

"No one likes property taxes, but at the same time if you want services then you need to come out and support those services," said Paul Kaiser, superintendent the Beech Grove school district in Indianapolis, where the potential loss of school transportation was a hot issue.

But voters in Indianapolis' rapidly growing Franklin Township, where taxpayers are already paying for several building projects in recent years, turned down a request to raise money for the general fund.

That leaves school officials there facing the prospect of trimming some $9 million in teaching positions and transportation costs out of next year's budget.

"We're going to lose 30 percent of the revenue in transportation," district Superintendent Walter Bourke said. "We're looking to cut bus routes and cut service."

Retired Indiana University economist Morton Marcus, who has studied the state's tax system for decades, said the referendums showed that voters tend to be influenced by short-term consequences and generally are unwilling to pay for schools they regard as "fancy."

Delph and Costerison agreed that voters tend to look with disfavor on major new projects such as auditoriums, swimming pools and gymnasiums.

But Marcus said voters often don't seem to grasp that taxes are a bill for government services.

"If people don't want to pay taxes, what we'll ultimately find out that they just won't get services," Marcus said.

Voters in the Hamilton Southeastern district — one of the state's fastest growing — this Tuesday will consider a referendum allowing higher property taxes to cover operating costs.

Costerison saw the troubled economy as the driving force behind last week's votes.

"This is not an anti-public school issue to me; this is an economic issue," he said. If the economy were stronger, school ballot measures might be more likely to pass, he said.

State Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, agreed.

"It's going to be tough to pass these things right now while we're in a recession. People are hurting," he said.

Although legislation allowing public referendums on school construction only passed in 2007, taxpayers have been able to challenge building projects through petition remonstrances since 1995, Costerison said.

But the change in law seemed to bring a change in mood. Under the old law, about half of the proposed building projects passed, but of 20 school project referendums held in the past two years, only six have been approved, Costerison said.

The concept of referendums to support school general funds goes back to property tax reforms under Gov. Otis Bowen in the early 1970s, though it's been little used, he said. Under the current law, voters can approve property tax cap waivers for seven years at a time before school officials must go back to the polls for fresh approval.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

ADVERTISEMENT