School district tries referendum for third time

(WISH Photo)
(WISH Photo)

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Crunched for cash, another school district is asking taxpayers for help to climb out of the red.

The Mount Vernon Community School Corp. in Hancock County will ask voters on the May 6 primary election ballot for a temporary tax increase to offset a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Like other districts, school officials largely blame property tax caps and a change in the state funding formula.

Mike McCarty, vice president of the MVCSC school board, said the referendum would generate $2.5 million dollars over the next three years and cost the average homeowner in the district between $3.30 and $15 per month. The tax rate would be 11 cents for every $100 of assessed value.

“The deficit we’re facing now is about $4.4 million and we’ve been able to improve our savings or at least match with that (the referendum revenue) to eliminate that deficit,” said McCarty.

He said the district has cut 60 jobs over the last few years – including teachers, teacher assistants and administrative positions. They’ve also instituted a pay-to-play program for sports.

Voters have twice turned down previous referendums to address the debt, but supporters say they believe this time may be different. Two parents are leading a campaign to try and change minds — using social media, community meetings, signs and T-shirts.

“When you start making drastic cuts to educators, you start losing your tenured educators. That impacts your children,” said Jeff Mull, who leads the group Graduate MVCSC with Larry Longman.

“No more cuts can be made without sacrificing the quality education that’s left for our kids in this area,” said Longman, who added the school system is important to a community’s economic growth.

“This is a critical step – not the only step that’s important for the overall corporation – but it’s critical because it allows us now to move from a deficit in our income statement to investing into our actual educational programs,” said McCarty. “If we don’t pass this referendum, we’ll get there but it’ll take us eight to 10 years.”

What’s wrong with waiting?

“This school corporation has a legacy of educational excellence. The challenge that we have is – we want to continue to not only achieve that benchmark but add programming and build our academic standards and teacher support,” said McCarty.

Other school districts asking for a referendum in May including Elkhart Community Schools, Concord Community Schools, Eminence Community Schools, Lanesville Community Schools, MSD of Boone Twp Schools, MSD of Decatur Twp, and White River Valley Schools.

Voters who live in the Muncie school district turned down a referendum in November.

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