Indiana school districts ask voters to approve property tax increases

All 14 of the MSD Washington Township schools buildings would receive improvements if voters pass the referendum. (WISH PHOTO)

 INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Washington Township School District leaders are asking voters to approve two property tax increases to bring in more than $190 million.

Since property tax caps were put in place in 2008 and Indiana legislators updated the state’s school funding formula in 2015, school districts have increasingly turned to referenda to fund their districts.

In the past five years, Indiana voters have approved about two-thirds of the referenda school districts have put forth, but Washington Township is asking for a significant hike and some homeowners said the cost may just be too much.

For parent Aimee Scheuemann, she believes a ‘yes’ vote is an investment in not only the schools, but the community.

“So for me, probably one of the more important issues that’s a part of this effort is our desire to attract and retain high-quality educators. People who care about the art, and science, and profession behind teaching,” Scheuermann said.

Scheuermann is a parent within MSDWT.

“I put a sign in my yard and a neighbor down the street said ‘Hey, where can I get those?’ And then my neighbor next door said ‘Where can I get one?’,’  across the street ‘Where can I get one,’ and it just organically happened,” Scheuermann said.

But some are concerned the burden on homeowners is too big.

Using the MSDWT-provided calculator, we entered the median home value in the area, which is $173,200. If both measures are approved by voters, homeowners would pay $315 in additional property taxes per year.

That money would raise funds two different initiatives.

The first is $185 million for building improvements and the creations of an 8th elementary school in the district to get kids out of trailer classrooms.

“They need to go ahead an add on and make the additions for the kids,” resident Betsy Graam said.

The second referendum is for $6.5 million for operational costs. Currently a previously-approved measure is bringing in those operational funds and supporting about 100 school employees, including 35 to 40 teachers.

This referendum would keep those positions funded. If it is turned down, school leaders would have to make personnel cuts.

“I think there’s a tremendous need in our community to help support the schools and the teachers because these kids are the future of our generations,” voter Robinson Fenelon said.

For Scheuermann, she said even those without school-age children should see a return in their higher property taxes.

“Something that’s obviously marketable, and will allow for you the opportunity to move, sell, what have you, not at a loss,” Scheuermann said.

We searched for residents opposed to the measures, but none would go on camera. Still those supporting it in an organized effort says an opposition does exist in the district.

Voters do have the choice to approve both measures, just one of them, or neither.

There are two other districts in central Indiana considering school referenda.

Monroe County Community School Corporation is asking voters to approve the continuation of a property tax originally approved in 2010. The estimated cost is $40 annually for a property valued at $100,000.

Also, the Clinton Central School Corporation is asking for property tax dollars to fund and maintain current educational programs, employees, and control class sizes. This referendum would cost about $55 a year for a property valued at $100,000.

Other Indiana school districts asking voters for support include New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation, School City of Mishawaka, Gary Community Schools Corporation, and Northeast Dubois County School Corporation.