Boone Township schools send funding question back to voters
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent February 18, 2014 9:28PM
Updated: March 20, 2014 6:53AM
HEBRON — A year after the Municipal School District of Boone Township lost a referendum by four votes, it is trying again.
On Tuesday, the school board voted 4-1 to try another referendum on May 6.
This year, it will be for $479,315 — down from $530,000 last year — and the property tax rate increase will be for 21 cents per $100 assessed valuation. Last year, the rate was 23 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
Don Fry voted against the referendum because of the amount needed despite a cut of about $329,000 and the influx of $225,000 in tuition from out-of-district transfer students.
The district laid off four teachers and cut its family and consumer science program.
“I can’t believe we still need almost what we needed before,” Fry said.
Superintendent George Letz said the school needs to hire more teachers and has other expenses, plus the teachers contract is up for negotiation again.
Fry loudly expressed his displeasure that Letz gave the board a list of the expenses at the meeting, just prior to the vote.
If the referendum passes, the increase in property taxes on the median $155,000 home will be $144 a year or $12 a month, said CPA Curt Pletcher of H.J. Umbaugh and Associates of Mishawaka.
A $100,000 home will see an increase of $69 a year, and a $100,000 commercial property will see an increase of $210 a year.
Farmland would see an increase of $4.31 an acre, not including productivity factors that add 50 percent to 128 percent more.
Only two residents spoke about the referendum at the meeting, giving opposing views.
Ken Shelhart was unhappy about the roughly 84 out-of-district tuition students whose families would not be affected by a tax increase.
He said those families won’t contribute a fair share and accused the school district of not living within its budget.
The district, like many other districts, accepts tuition students because the only way to get more money and stay afloat is to get more students, Letz said after the meeting.
The district’s budget has stalled at $6.9 million since 2009, when Indiana switched the general fund revenues from property taxes to sales taxes.
Resident Stephanie Mathews spoke in favor of the referendum and against the up to 30 students in classes and added that people need to complain to state legislators, not local officials, about money taken from schools and also given to voucher and charter school programs.
In last May’s referendum, 1,090 of Boone Township’s 3,874 registered voters defeated the measure by 543-547.