Ten Indiana school districts set to ask voters to approve tax increases

One Marion County district is among 10 in Indiana that plan to ask voters to approve a tax increase on Nov. 5 to supplement state funding for local schools. But several other districts just outside the county also are on the list.

Lawrence Township is seeking a construction referendum, which would generate an additional $191 million and is not subject to the property tax cap. The funds would be used to expand and renovate school buildings. This vote marks the first school referendum for Lawrence Township, adding it to the growing number of cash-strapped districts in Indiana that rely on appealing directly to residents.

More than 115 of the state’s nearly 300 districts have put at least one referendum on the ballot since 2009, and they have been increasingly successful in passing them, according to data from Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

More than 100 such referendums have been approved statewide, about 62%. This is especially true in cities and suburbs, which are more likely to pass than those in rural areas and towns. Recently the state has seen a growing number of districts using the funds to address school shooting concerns—adding security measures and mental health supports.

If approved, Lawrence Township’s referendum would fund renovations and expansions at Lawrence Central and Lawrence North high schools, as well as at the district’s four elementary schools and its four early learning centers. Renovations would involve replacing roofs, updating cafeterias, adding security cameras and renovating science classrooms, according to the district website.

The referendum would raise taxes on property owners by 25 cents per $100 of assessed value. For a house worth $145,000, that’s about $162 per year, according to the Department of Local Government Finance.

In nearby Johnson County, Center Grove Community Schools is seeking a referendum that would generate $3.1 million per year for eight years. While that money could technically go toward a range of operating expenses—from teachers’ salaries to technology—the district plans to use all of the money for security. Center Grove wants to hire more school police officers, add live monitoring to their security cameras, and increase mental health support for students.

If approved, taxes in Center Grove would increase by about 12 cents per $100 of assessed value, or about $75 per year for a house worth $145,000.

For the first time this year, districts also have the option to run a safety referendum, which lasts for a maximum of eight years and is capped so schools can only ask for a maximum increase of 10 cents per $100 of assessed value. So far, Carmel Clay School is the only district to put one on the ballot.

Here’s a roundup of all the districts that will put a tax increase on the ballot in November, including a couple of school districts with both construction and operational referendums:

MSD Lawrence Township

  • Type of referendum: construction
  • Estimated revenue: $191 million
  • Tax increase: $0.2499 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The project includes expansion, restoration, and renovation at both of the district’s high schools, four elementary schools, and four early learning centers.

Center Grove Community Schools

  • Type of referendum: operational
  • Estimated revenue: $24.8 over eight years
  • Tax increase: $0.1150 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The funding would go toward live monitoring of building cameras, additional school safety officers, and added mental health and classroom supports for students.

Carmel Clay Schools

  • Type of referendum: safety
  • Estimated revenue: $40 million over eight years
  • Tax increase: $0.05 per $100 assessed value.
  • How it would be used: The funding would be used for hiring and paying a school resource officer for each school, putting in place programs on mental illness, and implementing school safety professional development for teachers and administrators.

Danville Community Schools

  • Type of referendum: operational
  • Estimated revenue: $12.8 million over eight years.
  • Tax increase: $0.20 per $100 assessed value.
  • How it would be used: The funding would be used for transportation, teacher salaries, to lower class sizes, enhance security, and maintain its agricultural and fine arts programs.
  • Type of referendum: construction
  • Estimated value: $53 million
  • Tax increase: $0.6845 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The project includes renovations to the academic, agricultural, and fine arts areas of Danville Community High School, Middle School, and North and South elementary schools. The Hendricks County district also plans to purchase new technology.

Hamilton Community Schools

  • Type of referendum: operational
  • Estimated revenue: $13.8 million over eight years
  • Tax increase: $0.44 per $100 assessed value
  • How it would be used: The funding would allow the district in DeKalb County to maintain its current programs, including its transportation and safety features.

Huntington County Community Schools

  • Type of referendum: operational
  • Estimated revenue: $8 million over eight years
  • Tax increase: $0.06 per $100 assessed value
  • How it would be used: The funding would go toward academic programs, managing class sizes, school safety initiatives, and teacher salaries.
  • Type of referendum: construction
  • Estimated revenue: $68.48 million
  • Tax increase: $0.3381 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The project includes renovations to Huntington North High School.

Scott County School District Number 1

  • Type of referendum: construction
  • Estimated revenue: $20 million
  • Tax increase: $0.9085 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The project includes building a new elementary school to hold about 650 students and repurposing the former high school swimming pool into a multipurpose room.

Vigo County Schools

  • Type of referendum: operational
  • Estimated revenue: $7 million over eight years
  • Tax increase: $0.1622 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The funding would go toward transportation, school safety initiatives, a reduction in class sizes, and teachers’ salaries.

Washington Community Schools

  • Type of referendum: construction
  • Estimated revenue: $38 million
  • Tax increase: $0.4829 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The project in Daviess County includes building a new middle school and making district-wide security improvements.

Zionsville Community Schools

  • Type of referendum: construction
  • Estimated value: $89 million
  • Tax increase: $0.2580 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The project includes building a new elementary school and renovating and expanding “many [of the district’s] existing buildings.”
  • Type of referendum: operational
  • Estimated value: $64 over eight years
  • Tax increase: $0.244 per $100 of assessed value
  • How it would be used: The funds would replace an existing operational referendum with a higher levy and be used for academic programs and managing class sizes in the Boone County district.

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3 thoughts on “Ten Indiana school districts set to ask voters to approve tax increases

  1. Hmm… Perhaps the state should take notice, $460 million shortfall on just 10 districts. Instead of each going at their own referrendum, I believe the State should adjust the formula for funding schools. Its apparent they’re not getting enough.

  2. Or perhaps the districts have grown and money is needed to keep classroom size manageable for our underpaid teachers. Some areas have grown and kids are now getting into the elementary schools and they are at capacity. Building new elementary school to help even out the students helps but the problem becomes when all those elementary kids go to middle and high school. Are those buildings able to handle the increase of students?