Hamilton County voting on school referendums
Voters in parts of Hamilton and Boone counties are deciding whether to extend a property tax increase for their schools or risk losing teachers.
Driving the news: Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern and Sheridan school districts have operating referendums on the ballot for next week's election.
Why it matters: All three referendums are continuations of previously passed tax hikes.
- If voters reject the measures, districts will have multimillion-dollar holes in their annual budgets.
By the numbers: Carmel Clay Schools is asking voters to renew a 2017 referendum to collect around $24 million a year — nearly all of which would be spent on retaining and attracting teachers and other staff.
- Hamilton Southeastern Schools is requesting an extension of the referendum first passed in 2016 — but it's lowering the rate by roughly $5 per $100,000 of assessed value, for annual revenue around $24 million — for teachers and academic programs.
- Sheridan is looking to renew an increase passed in 2017 for an expected $1.3 million annually, with nearly $900,000 to be spent on retaining and attracting teachers and the rest for academic programs.
The intrigue: Property tax referendums were created when the state capped property taxes more than a decade ago but many districts have never passed one or even tried.
- A state report found that referendums fuel pay disparity between well-resourced districts that can pass them and those that can't.
- Education reform advocates and some parents have also protested the resource gap they create between traditional public districts and public charter schools.
- State lawmakers in recent years have sought to require districts to share referendum proceeds with charter schools in their boundaries and put restrictions on when districts can put referendum questions on ballots.
Yes, but: Those efforts have largely stalled.
- Referendum sharing was passed this year, but only for school districts in four counties: Marion, Lake, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh.
Zoom out: Six other districts around the state also have operating referendums on next week's ballot.
- Only one, the School City of Hammond, is asking for a construction project referendum.
- Two are asking voters to approve tax hikes for school safety initiatives.
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