Numerous school referendums face decision time

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Voters in several central Indiana school districts on Tuesday are considering education-related referendums, including one that would provide Hamilton Southeastern Schools with 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 officials undoubtedly are hoping for a similar outcome enjoyed earlier this year by another Hamilton County school district.

Noblesville voters in May easily approved two referendums, one for $5 million to cover operational expenses and another for $63 million to fund school building projects. The district is building two middle schools and one elementary school, in addition to expanding five schools.

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

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

In May, voters in the nearby Western Boone County Community School Corp. shot down a proposal that would have resulted in a 19-cent hike per $100 in assessed valuation for six years, starting in 2011. That referendum addressed an $850,000 budget shortfall and not a capital project.

Elsewhere in Boone County, voters in the Zionsville School Corp. district go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on a referendum to fund operating expenses.

The referendum would add 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 have warned of teacher layoffs and program cuts, if the referendum fails.

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.

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.

Other districts in central Indiana seeking General Fund referendums include:

— Anderson Community School Corp., 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation

— Center Grove Community School Corp., 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation

— Elwood Community School Corp., 50 cents per $100 of assessed valuation

— Northwestern Consolidated Schools in Shelby County, 11.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation

— Community School Corp. of Southern Hancock County, 24 cents per $100 of assessed valuation

— Westfield Washington Schools, 23 cents per $100 of assessed valuation

Statewide, 17 school districts on Tuesday are seeking referendums. If history is any indication, only about half of them will pass.

Since 2008, voters have approved only 43 percent of all school-funding proposals, according to a study by Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. Of the 42 referendums that have appeared on ballots since state law changed in 2008, 24 have failed and 18 have passed.


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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.