School referendums voted down in several districts

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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.


  • Outstanding idea
    HS Athlete. What a good idea. I know of few people that disagree that the sports facilities are a little extreme. Everyone wants the kids to have a good education. Everyone is tired of the excuse of this fund or this fund and we cannot transfer money from here to there because you just cant. Ok so let your football and basketball teams' revenue, build and maintain your stadiums. Boosters pay for shirts and shorts.
    So if the easy way to fix our problem is take more money from the property owners and that failed. Lets do the next thing (which is harder i know) and fight the state if that is the problem.
  • Agree, but
    if millionaire athletes who don't even graduate high school can get posh taxpayer-funded venues then why not our own students?

    Schools need to get the money from somewhere, and if it's not from taxes, then maybe high school sports can be a revenue generator.
    • Nuts!
      OK, so these schools won't have NBA basketball courts, NFL football fields, nor Olympic pools... they should focus first on the three "R's"; worry about whether the Colts could use their field as an alternate to Lucas Oil Stadium later.
      • Take Responisiblity and accept the blame
        I hope these parents and grandparents will step up and accept the responsibility when their kids can't get jobs because of the poor quality of education they received from their parent's own greedy self-interests. As the Third World becomes the First World and the US falls to the "also there" catagory, I am sure we can be proud that we put our money in things we don't need and left our children to face a really difficut world in the future.
      • Re: Observer
        Observer, you are correct. I realize it sounds as though I am making the assumption that Jim is involved in his children's education because they attend a private school, but I certainly realize that is not the case. Perhaps I should clarify that Jim is, at the least, involved in writing the checks to support his own children. In no way did I mean to imply that a parent who chooses public education is not involved. I hope it is clear that I am a strong supporter of public schools myself, which is obviously why I am so devastated to see these referendums fail. My concern is for the children who are not fortunate enough to have parents who take an interest in their education. It is a sad fact but if their parents are unwilling or unable to look out for children, who is? Cleary, the answer is not many of the people in Indiana. I'm not asking anyone to take them in, clothe them, or feed them, but to actively destroy their chance at a solid foundation in life? That is what I find unbelievable.

        Bottom line, Observer, I am glad to read that you are so satisfied with your children's education and I appreciate you sharing that public schools ARE successful. I absolutely do not believe I am supporting a failing system; it is a lack of support that causes the system to fail.
      • Don't Assume
        I have to agree with Observer. One of my kids went to, and graduated from, a private high school. The other went to the private school for one year, then went back to the public school, because it had more class options. Both did well academically. The point is that choice in education makes for better learning opportunities. Another point.

        I have a friend who is an administrator for a public school system. She works for about 5 hours per day, has summers off, pays a comparative pittance for insurance, has one of the last of the defined benefit retirement plans (mostly only public sector union employees have them now), and she earns a surprisingly high salary as well. Finally, she has seniority and can't be fired (with some exceptions), and is employed in an industry that has no competition. All of this may explain why hers is one of the worst perfoming school districts in the State, but many Indiana schools districts lie at the bottom of the national scale. I respectfully disagree with those who suggest that this is all somehow Gov. Daniels' fault. Of every dollar that goes into public education in Indiana, only $0.61 makes it into the classroom, which is one the lowest amounts in the country. I struggle to see how increasing the proportionate share that reaches the classroom hurts our kids.
      • The Real Good News is
        The public finally has control of the taxes and spending for schools. For too long it the schools wanted money the got it. Now they have to demonstrate to the voters they can be trusted with the money they want. Look at the comments from those who vote NO,they are not selfish they just don't trust the administration and school board to spend the money wisely. When people see the need they'll pay.
      • don't assume
        Jen, don't make the mistake of assuming that just because Jeff can pay for his kids' private education, he is more involved. When deciding where to send our kids, public vs. private, private schools tried to sell me by saying I would not have to be as involved in their education--we could just trust them to do a good job. I chose public school for a number of reasons, including the opportunity that my kids will have to be exposed to other children who are not exactly like themselves. There are a lot of great public schools out there, with great teachers and programs you will not find in private schools. My child is reading 2 grades above their level in public school. Not only that, but they understand that some kids have disabilities because their "special friends" join them for art and music classes.
      • don't assume
        Jen, don't make the mistake of assuming that just because Jeff can pay for his kids' private education, he is more involved. When deciding where to send our kids, public vs. private, private schools tried to sell me by saying I would not have to be as involved in their education--we could just trust them to do a good job. I chose public school for a number of reasons, including the opportunity that my kids will have to be exposed to other children who are not exactly like themselves. There are a lot of great public schools out there, with great teachers and programs you will not find in private schools. My child is reading 2 grades above their level in public school. Not only that, but they understand that some kids have disabilities because their "special friends" join them for art and music classes.
      • correction
        Excuse me, I meant to say "get a overpriced . . . ."
      • Thanks Jim
        Well Jim, I prefer to save the term "drama" for petty, miniscule things that don't matter, but if I'm being dramatic, then I'm proud to be dramatic for something I care so deeply about. I think you've made it clear that you fall into the category of selfish Indiana voters. Your children are fortunate that you are involved in their education but not every child has that. With your comments you have only proved my point: the future of Indiana has taken a significant hit because some voters are, in your case, selfish. Who cares about the rest of the children in Indiana as long as yours get an probably overpriced education that is only deemed better because it doesn't get scrutinized on a daily basis, am I right? Have a great day!
        • "The unwashed masses" -- gotta love it
          Personally, I'd rather pay an extra $100-$200 a year for decent public education than have that money funneled to Corrections Corporation of America members--to build more prisons--by our elected officials whose pockets are lined with campaign contributions from the CCA.

          Love your comments, Jen.
          • Get real Jen
            Can we vote Jen off of total drama island? Get real! The voters of Indiana killed a free, public education for all children - poppycock! If the majority of all Indiana voters are ignorant, according to posted comments, I think reduced taxes and therefore reduced school budgets only make good common sense. Since, according to posters we are all ignorant, why pay for ineffective education for the unwashed masses. The Libertarian candidate for Senate said it best during the televised debate, that public education systems are more about employing adults and less about educating children. That is why, Jen, that I do send my child to private school. Have a great day!
          • Jen
            while I feel your pain, and personally voted for the local referendum here, the fact is, as you mentioned, every district has a different look and feel to it. In Anderson, the referendum was voted down for a number of reasons, but primarily because the Teacher's Union here for years had the School Board packed with their candidates, who refused to listen to parental complaints, and crammed their agenda down everyone's throats, including forcing through an 11th hour retirement incentive for teachers that threatens to bankrupt the school system. Now a new school board, that actually listens to the public, is left holding the bag...it will take years for the public here to believe that the school system and school board is not behaving like a bunch of vandals..the trust is broken here.
            But you are right about many things thing...it appears that Bennett and Daniels have an unconsitiutional agenda to destroy Indiana Public Education though they say they are providing "options"...as you put it, options that probably won't be available for the majority of students. They are required by law to provide for a robust public education system, which they clearly are not doing. And with the election results of last night, the pillaging will most likely continue. Good luck to the people who have to send their kids into this mess, and lack the funds or the committment to see that their kids still get educated.
          • The Worst is yet to Come
            If you think that Obama foreced his hand on the Congress, wait until you see what Mitch will do. The school problem is just the beginning. With the property tax cap in place, many schools are just starting to see how bad things can be.
          • Re: Mike
            While it would be nice to paint every school with the same brush and say they all have the same problems, the reality of the situation is that each system has it's own unique issues and Mitch Daniels and the rest of his enablers have been destroying public education for years now. It's easy to blame the problems on what people to believe overpaid administrator salaries, but the fact is that most people do not understand the school funding formulas. I don't claim to be knowledgeable about the benefits at Carmel schools, but I do know that certain funds cannot cross over to pay for other shortfalls (again, we can thank Mitch for that) which is why schools now hold referendums in order to reassign that money (think HSE referendum) or to raise enough in the fund it needs. The Zionsville Schools referendum, for example, hoped to raise money for operating costs and not the general fund. We can sit in the new athletic facilities all we want and complain, but legally ZCS cannot take their money for buildings and use it to pay teacher salaries. Again, thank your man Mitch for that. Of course, the majority of Indiana residents are too ignorant (best case scenario) or selfish to really understand what they are voting for. Personally, I'd rather pay an extra $100-$200 a year than to pay a $10,000 tuition bill for my child's private school tuition, but apparently I am in the minority.
          • Totally Agree!
            I hope they can find something more worthwile to spend their couple hundred dollars on other than the children. While we're at it we might as well stop paying taxes for fire/police, transit and other social services.

            This completely disgusts and embarrasses me as a citizen of this state!
          • Perspective
            As soon as school systems scale back their administrators count and focus their budgets on good teachers, you might be amazed on how much of the budget is freed up in these districts. Put the money where it affects the kids directly. Not sure the specifics of these districts but I do know in Carmel that administration pays a mere $5 per month for health care benefits while the non-administrators pay $600 per month for a family. Seems a little lop-sided to me.
          • But the good news is...
            Congratulations, Indiana! Your children will suffer the loss of beneficial courses such as art, music, physical education, and their class sizes will increase in core curriculum courses as well. Programs to support struggling learners, gifted learners, and other children in need will most likely be cut. Now residents are faced with the decision between settling for a sub-par public education or pay thousands of dollars a year in private school tuition. Perhaps they could try to get into a local charter school, but in most cases and especially in the future will likely rely on a lottery system for admittance. With last night's votes, Indiana has effectively destroyed every child's right to a free public education.

            But the good news is you saved a couple dollars on your taxes this year!

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            1. Gay marriage is coming, whether or not these bigots and zealots like it or not. We must work to ensure future generations remember the likes of Greg Zoeller like they do the racists of our past...in shame.

            2. Perhaps a diagram of all the network connections of all politicians to their supporters and those who are elite/wealthy and how they have voted on bills that may have benefited their supporters. The truth may hurt, but there are no non-disclosures in government.

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