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3 Marion County districts OK funding boosts; Brownsburg voters say 'no'

May 6, 2015

Five requests for additional tax dollars were approved by voters in three Marion County school districts Tuesday.

Wayne Township, Perry Township and Beech Grove schools each had proposals on the primary election ballot asking voters to raise taxes for issues including busing, building upgrades and teacher salaries.

Brownsburg voted down two referendums—a $95 million plan to renovate the high school and build a new elementary school, along with a $1 million plan to boost elementary school staffing.

Wayne Township Superintendent Jeff Butts said the new tax dollars from two referendums in his district make up for an $8 million loss the district incurred when property taxes were removed from school general funds back in 2010. If it hadn’t passed, the district would’ve had to seriously consider teacher layoffs, Butts said.

“We had to decide, do we keep that going, or do we make additional reductions?” he said. “I’m pleased for Perry and I’m pleased for Beech Grove, but obviously I’m very proud of our community for supporting our kids.”

Most of the Marion County proposals had wide margins of success—Beech Grove’s two referendums each passed with more than 75 percent of the votes, and Wayne Township’s passed with almost two-thirds of the votes cast.

The closest Marion County decision was in Perry Township, but voters still approved the referendum by more than 50 percent.

In Brownsburg, opponents garnered about 52 percent of the vote for each referendum.

The districts said they had to ask voters to approve additional funding largely because of changes to the school funding formula that capped property taxes, limiting what schools could collect.

The caps were supposed to make homeowner’s property taxes more stable and offer some tax relief, but that meant many schools lost sizable amounts of money they needed for their operating funds, which mainly pay for teachers and classroom costs.

Wayne Township lost 37 percent of its property tax revenue because of the caps and Beech Grove’s lost 39 percent, the two largest in the county. Wayne Township is the second largest district in the county behind Indianapolis Public Schools.

Overall, Butts said the election successes amounted to a pretty good night for Marion County schools, but he said the state’s system might force more referendums in the future.

“I think this is the new wave that schools will be funded for anything additional,” Butts said. “And local communities get to make that decision.”

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