As the polls prepare to open Tuesday, perhaps the most-watched issue in this year's primary election won't be candidate races, but the three central Indiana school districts that are asking for permission to raise taxes.
Leaders of Decatur Township, Eminence and Mt. Vernon school districts all say the tax hikes are necessary.
For parents and voters in Fortville, Tuesday’s vote will be nothing new, but Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation leaders are hoping the outcome will be different.
Twice before, in 2010 and 2012, voters have rejected the school district’s request for a tax increase.
"I have never taken this as an anti-school situation because I don't believe people are anti-school. They are anti-tax and believe me, they are really anti-tax," MVCSC Superintendent William Riggs said.
This year, the district is asking for a tax increase of 11 cents per $100 value -- to raise $2.5 million over the next three years to help pay off debt.
Measures like cutting staff and increasing class sizes have already helped reduce the budget deficit by nearly $3 million.
"It's going to take us 10 years at the rate we're going to pay off that deficit. They can help us by passing that referendum and getting it over with now," Riggs said.
In Morgan County, leaders of Eminence Community Schools are asking for a tax hike they say is necessary to keep school doors open for its 420 students.
They are asking for an increase of 25 cents per $100 assessed value with the option of raising it to 40 cents if needed.
District officials said without the hike, they will be forced to consolidate with a neighboring school system.
On the city’s southwest side, leaders with the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township are asking voters to approve $27 million in new taxes. If the hike is not approved, the district is threatening to cancel bus service in three years.
"We'll be looking at making cuts as far as possibly closing schools, laying off staff and cutting programs in order to make our budget work," Superintendent Matt Prusiecki said.
School referendums have traditionally faced a tough road. Ninety-two have made the ballot since 2008 and only 43 -- less than half -- have passed.
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