Zionsville voters face lone area school-funding referendum

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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