Zionsville School Referendum Battle Heats Up

Voters To Decide On $14M Taxpayer-Funded Plan Tuesday

The Zionsville School District wants taxpayers to approve a three-year referendum after a proposal failed to pass in November 2010.

With more than $14 million at stake for Zionsville Community Schools, voters will get another chance on Tuesday to approve a referendum.

In November 2010, 61 percent of residents voted against a seven-year referendum. Since then, opponents and proponents of the referendum have stepped up their campaigns, RTV6's Kara Kenney reported.

The Zionsville Yes campaign has posted ads on Facebook blasting the Vote No camp, also known as Zionsville Taxpayers for Responsible Education, accusing them of misleading voters in 2010.

Campaign organizers told RTV6 on Monday they felt it was important to address ZTRE's stance that the school district has not done enough to cut expenses, and does not need to cut teaching positions.

"I think it's necessary to be aggressive to get the facts out," said Zionsville Yes volunteer Tracy Nasser.

"There was a group last time that said there would be no cuts and everything would be fine," said Debbie Ungar, an organizer with the Zionsville Yes campaign. "Some of the same information is being put out this time, and this is not the reality of the situation."

A Yes ad advised voters to reject calls to consolidate with Lebanon, Western Boone and other school districts.

"That is 100 percent false. We've never asked that to be considered at all," said Ron Martin with ZTRE. (Zionsville Yes) has been a very aggressive campaign, and it's hard to stop something like that."

Martin denied that ZTRE misled voters.

"The finances have not been handled the way the school said they would be,” Martin said.

Martin said ZTRE has pushed school officials to follow the Indiana Department of Education Citizen's Checklist.

"We think it's overspending," said Martin, who added some citizens are silently against a referendum. "It's a hard thing to say ‘no’ and advertise that. It's an easy thing to say ‘yes.’"

Martin pointed to expenses like teacher raises, pensions and insurance as areas to trim.

The Indiana Department of Education showed Zionsville Community Schools ranked 51st in 2011 in teacher salaries, with an average of $53,139.

School superintendent Dr. Scott Robison told RTV6 expenses are where they should be.

"Those are misdirections that are attempting to confuse voters," Robison said. "I don't think you can pay a teacher too much who is giving excellent service to students and is highly effective."

If the referendum passes, Robison said the money will go only into the general fund.

"We're focused on classrooms period," Robison said.

Records showed the Zionsville Yes campaign received more than $40,600 in contributions, and has spent more than $27,000 on newspaper ads, email distributions, buttons, stickers, brochures, T-shirts and yard signs.

ZTRE raised more than $4,170 and has spent more than $3,300 on newspaper ads and promotions.

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