Three Hamilton County school districts asking voters to OK referendums

Voters in three Hamilton County school districts will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on funding referendums.

Carmel Clay Schools and the Sheridan Community School Corp. are asking voters to approve seven-year tax hikes for operational funding, and Westfield Washington Schools is asking taxpayers to cover the costs of $90 million in construction projects.

Carmel’s "replacement" referendum calls for a new tax of 19 cents per $100 of assessed home value beginning in 2018. The district says the hike wouldn't raise rates, but keep the overall school tax rate flat at 83 cents per $100 of assessed value.

In 2010, Carmel voters approved a seven-year tax hike of 16 cents per $100 of assessed value. That rate is set to expire at the end of the year.

The district says if the referendum isn’t approved, 260 employees could lose their jobs and class sizes would increase.

Sheridan’s referendum is asking taxpayers for a rate increase of 25 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is expected to cost a homeowner with a property valued at $200,000 an extra $120 per year, starting in 2018, according to the district. The actual hike would only be 6 cents, however, because it has an expiring referendum tax of 19 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The school district, which also covers part of Boone County, estimates the hike would provide $200,000 per year for seven years, which would be used to pay for employee salaries and benefits.

In Westfield, where voters approved an operating referendum in November, the district is now asking for a tax to cover capital project funding. Revenue from operating referendums cannot be used to pay for construction projects.

The proposed tax rate of 30.79 cents per $100 of assessed home value would cause property taxes to rise $301 annually for a home valued at $200,000, the district says. For a home valued at $300,000, taxes would rise $501.

School leaders say the referendum, which could be in place for up to 20 years, is needed to expand and maintain existing facilities.The tax hike would generate about $7.6 million annually to pay for expansions and renovations at growing Westfield High School ($42.1 million), Westfield Middle School ($16.7 million) and Westfield Intermediate School ($7.1 million). It would also cover $24 million in district-wide renovations.

Last year, all but three of 20 school funding referendums were approved by voters in primary and general elections in Indiana.

Voters in Benton, Jasper, Lake, Perry, Tippecanoe and White counties will also weigh in on seven other school funding referendums Tuesday.

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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