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Understanding the IPS referendum

Posted: 4:43 PM, Oct 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-30 01:03:43Z

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Public Schools is asking voters to approve a referendum that will be used to improve school security and increase teacher pay.

Voters will be seeing two questions from IPS on the ballot when they head to the polls on November 6: One is an operating referendum. The other, a capital project request.   

During the last several months, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and IPS Board of School Commissioners agreed to a $220-million operating referendum and a $52-million capital improvement referendum for the November ballot.

"Our last referendum was ten years ago," Dr. Lewis Ferebee, IPS Superintendent, explained.  "So we have done a lot of work to be strong, financial stewards before we came back to the public to ask for additional dollars to a tax increase." 

Ferebee says he wants voters to know that IPS is critical to the vitality of Indianapolis. With more than 31,000 students and 88 schools, IPS is the largest school district in the state. According to Ferebee, these funds will help provide the means to keep students on a successful path in their education.

"We are not able to make the critical facility updates that need to be made and with IPS portfolio of school buildings that are relatively old," Ferebee said.  "So if we kick the can on those needs, it is going to cost us more later."

The Capitol Improvement referendum is to fund safety improvements at the schools with enhanced exterior lighting, technology upgrades, hardened exteriors, classroom safety upgrades, and upgraded emergency communication systems.

The $220-million operating referendum is to support competitive teacher compensation.

"There is a teacher shortage here in the state of Indiana and actually across the nation.  And we need to be competitive about our compensation," Ferebee explained.  "We raised salaries the last couple of years where we have invested 10-million dollars in compensation and benefits for our employees.  We want to continue to do that, we need to continue to do that.  And the operating referendum would allow us to do so."

The operating referendum will also help to close funding gaps and provide services to students with special needs.

These requests come with an ask from homeowners, boosting their current property taxes.

"As a person living in the community with two small girls that will eventually be going to IPS, anything to make the school district better," Claire Bailey, a resident within the IPS school district, said. "I think we should be willing to take that opportunity and say yes to this opportunity."

Other district residents look at these referenda as an investment. Kasey May, who lives in the district, said, "I think schools are really important to fund appropriately and it's important for me to stay in Indianapolis for my kids when they get to that age."

Assuming both referendums get passed by voters, a home valued at $123,500 would have an increase on their yearly property taxes by $110.07.  A home valued at $175,000 would see an increase of $186.80, and a home valued at $300,000 would get an increase of $373.02.

Use this tool to calculate property taxes with increases from referendums

These tax increases would be in effect for eight years, with the possibility of IPS coming back and requesting more.  If the proposals fail, IPS may come back in the future and make another request.

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