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Zionsville voters face lone area school-funding referendum

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Zionsville Community Schools is the only district in the Indianapolis area that is asking voters during Tuesday elections to approve a property-tax hike to provide additional school funding.

The referendum would increase the local school tax to 24.44 cents per $100 of assessed value, which equates to an extra $239 per year for a $200,000 home.

Zionsville voters in November 2010 rejected a similar measure that would have increased the tax rate 29.5 cents, resulting in the layoffs of 21 teachers and counselors.

The Zionsville School Board since has voted to cut what amounts to 17 full-time positions to help close a $2.5 million budget shortfall. The vote was made to meet a May 1 deadline to notify teachers that they could lose their jobs, but those jobs could be saved if the referendum passes.

Mount Vernon Community School Corp. in Fortville had planned to ask taxpayers on Tuesday to help refinance 50 percent of its debt, but reconsidered after state lawmakers passed legislation to give districts more flexibility to refinance debt.

The legislation lets distressed schools refinance long-term debt to free up cash that could go toward non-salary items such as replacing school buses or upgrading classroom technology.

Mount Vernon, which is in the process of refinancing some of its $130 million debt from new school construction, had considered cutting back on bus transportation.

Statewide, besides Zionsville, six school districts are asking taxpayers for additional money to either fund construction projects or increase school tax levies.

Construction referendums are on the ballot to support the Crawfordsville Community School Corp., East Allen County Schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools, and the North Wells Community School Corp. in Ossian.

School tax levy increases also are on the ballot for the Duneland School Corp. in Chesterton and the Oregon-Davis School Corp. in Hamlet.

In addition, Johnson County taxpayers south of Indianapolis will decide whether to help finance a $30 million project to construct a new library in downtown Franklin, as well as renovate existing library buildings in Franklin and White River Township.

The library system wants to issue bonds to finance the project, which would be mostly funded by an increase in the property-tax rate of about 4 cents per $100 in assessed valuation.

The 70,000-square-foot library in downtown Franklin would include a two-level, 250-car parking garage.

The 20-year bond issue would cover roughly $25 million of the cost. The library would contribute $1.4 million, and the Johnson County Redevelopment Corp. would provide $3.5 million to help fund construction of the parking garage.

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  • Facts have been out there for a while...
    People have just chosen to ignore or hope some other solution would magically come to be. This was known (and discussed) when the new property tax laws were proposed, this was known the last few years when Zionsville community voted to fire teachers and cut more programs. Again this year it is up for vote again. I don't know if there is more data or answers to be had as it's all out there and has been out there, in reality nothing is new about this in 4 years. Perhaps the board could make prettier charts..maybe get the 6th graders to do it...that might get folks to actually read or understand the facts.
  • Information on referendum
    Here is a link to a slide show from the Zionsville schools regarding the need for the referendum: http://cms.zcs.k12.in.us/sites/default/files/Documents/Superintendent/BDMtgppt_4-23-2012.pdf

    The situation is difficult. After the property tax caps went into effect, and the state school funding fomula kicked in, Zionsville schools saw a drop in funding. Between 2008 and today, funding is down 10%, while enrollment is up 10%. Zionsville is dead last in per-student funding from the state. We are now a "donor" community - more of our state tax money goes out than is returned to our schools.

    The Zionsville schools have made drastic cuts in administration and non-teaching positions. Administrators and support staff have been on a salary freeze for the past five years. Yet there is still a budget shortfall. It has reached the point that they are cutting music and language programs in the middle schools.

    There is fervent opposition to the referendum, which I find extremely short-sighted. Schools are the heart of a suburban community like Zionsville. If we as a community don't stand up and support them, we'll drive people away.
  • Information on referendum
    Here is a link to a slide show from the Zionsville schools regarding the need for the referendum: http://cms.zcs.k12.in.us/sites/default/files/Documents/Superintendent/BDMtgppt_4-23-2012.pdf

    The situation is difficult. After the property tax caps went into effect, and the state school funding fomula kicked in, Zionsville schools saw a drop in funding. Between 2008 and today, funding is down 10%, while enrollment is up 10%. Zionsville is dead last in per-student funding from the state. We are now a "donor" community - more of our state tax money goes out than is returned to our schools.

    The Zionsville schools have made drastic cuts in administration and non-teaching positions. Administrators and support staff have been on a salary freeze for the past five years. Yet there is still a budget shortfall. It has reached the point that they are cutting music and language programs in the middle schools.

    There is fervent opposition to the referendum, which I find extremely short-sighted. Schools are the heart of a suburban community like Zionsville. If we as a community don't stand up and support them, we'll drive people away.
  • New Zionsville Resident
    I recently moved to Zionsville for the school system. When I went to register my kid for school I saw something. All the parents were registering their kids. Dad's had take off work to go with their wives to register their kids. This made me think. Are the Zionsville school successful because of the teachers or because of the parents evolvement in their kids’ education. I am to new to tell. I really want to vote for the referendum but the school board public relation skills are very weak at best. Why is the community so far apart on this issue? Has the school board really made the tough decisions on budget? I am still undecided on how I will vote.
    • Zionsville must protect its asset
      Without good schools, there is no reason to move to Zionsville. Residents need to understand that they are losing their reputation of having good schools. Property values will suffer. While searching for homes, two realtors told me to consider other areas besides Zionsville due to all of their school financial troubles. One of the wealthiest areas in the state and they have the poorest schools? It's embarassing that any resident would vote no, when it isn't much of a tax increase and they have much more to lose if their property values decline.
    • This Must Pass
      What is Zionsville with out great schools? -- A smaller Fishers!

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