School Districts Ask For Taxpayer Help On May 8 Ballot

Districts Look To Increase Operating Budgets Through Referenda

Seven Indiana school districts are planning to ask taxpayers for more money on the May 8 ballot.

Crawfordsville Community School Corporation, East Allen County Schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools and Northern Wells Community School Corp. have construction project referendums on the ballot.

Duneland School Corp., Oregon-David School Corp. and Zionsville Community Schools are looking to increase their school tax levy through an operating referendum, RTV6's Kara Kenney reported.

Mount Vernon Community School Corp. had planned to ask taxpayers for help in a May 8 referendum to refinance 50 percent of its debt, but because of legislation passed this session, the referendum is no longer necessary.

Republicans Rep. Bob Cherry and Sen. Pat Miller authored the legislation that provides distressed school districts more flexibility in refinancing their debt.

It also allows financially strapped school districts to restructure their debt without having to get permission from voters in a referendum.

“I think it's really about the kids," Cherry said. "It helps create cash flow and when you're up against the tax caps, this will protect the dollars they can spend on transportation."

The Mount Vernon Community School Corp. is in the process of refinancing some of its debt, which totals $130 million and will be used to free up money for bus transportation.

Mount Vernon Superintendent Bill Riggs said the school had considered cutting back bus transportation.

"Everybody can sit back and relax. We are going to run the buses," Riggs said. "This, I do believe, is truly a turning point. (The new law) doesn't solve all of our problems, but it puts us in a position where we're in control of coming up with solutions and up until this point, that hasn't happened.”

The school district racked up debt building and expanding schools as the district was growing.

"We were growing at 200 kids a year and we grew for 16 consecutive years," Riggs said.

However, Mount Vernon has lost students the past two school years.

Riggs told RTV6 the Legislature came as a huge relief for bedroom community school districts like Mount Vernon that have few businesses to rely on for tax revenue.

"I was very pleased at the reception we received in the general assembly,” Riggs said. "We saw a great deal of bipartisan support."

Parents and students told RTV6 they're relieved school bus transportation will be back for the 2012-2013 school year.

"I'm happy the government stepped in and helped us out for once," said parent Ryan Macy. "There are a lot of things that need to be changed, but this is the main thing right now."

To calculate how a referendum could impact your property tax bill, click here.

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