In Porter County, one school funding measure passes, another fails – but barely
VALPARAISO — Voters in Union Township passed a referendum by a 16 percent margin Tuesday that will raise $7 million for their schools over the next seven years, while those in Boone Township turned down a referendum for their schools by four votes.
“Four votes,” George Letz, superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Boone Township, said with defeat as he received the final tally.
According to unofficial election results, 1,090 of Boone Township’s registered voters took part in Tuesday’s special election. Of that total, 543 voted for the referendum, and 547 voted against it. The township has 3,874 registered voters.
The school corporation was asking for an additional 23.38 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The loss of the referendum means cutting the general fund budget by $530,000
“We’re going to have to cut nine or 10 teachers,” as well as programs, Letz said, “but everybody knew that going into it.”
He remained hopeful that there might be some absentee ballots that hadn’t been counted that could bring the vote to a tie. Letz also said he would check with the school board and the county’s election board about a possible recount. The election board meets May 15 to certify the election results.
Whether the school corporation will put another referendum on the ballot remains to be seen.
“It’s too early to tell that. We’ll see,” Letz said. “We’ll re-evaluate everything and see where we go from there.”
Letz said there was no organized opposition to the referendum, and a local political action committee, Citizens United for Quality Education, worked phone banks and canvassed neighborhoods to rally support for the measure.
High school principal Mark Lutze called the election results “just incredibly disappointing.”
“It was four people who didn’t vote. It’s devastating. If we could have just gotten a few more people to vote,” he said.
Representatives from Union Township, meanwhile, were ebullient over their election results, where voters there passed a referendum to increase taxes 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
In unofficial results, the referendum garnered 1,057 yes votes and 759 no votes. The township has 6,485 registered voters.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased,” Superintendent John Hunter said. “We really didn’t think it was going to be as close as it was, but the numbers show the community does support what we do for their kids.”
Without the referendum, Hunter said, his district would have to cut $1 million, or about 10 percent, from its budget. He and the school board would have set priorities for programs to determine what could be cut. The referendum will generate about $1 million a year for seven years.
Supporters cheered and hugged as the final figures came in.
“I’m thrilled,” said David Fry, co-chairman of Families of Union Township United in Retaining Excellence, which mobilized the community in favor of the referendum. “The children of our community don’t have to worry about their programs going away.”
Earlier in the evening, Fry, who has two daughters in elementary school, said there was “a really strong chance” for a double-digit win on the referendum. His political action committee had poll watchers posting tallies on the group’s Facebook page throughout the day, though the results were not official.
School board secretary Mike Simatovich said he was elated by the election results as well.
“It’s going to help us continue the excellent programming we’ve been offering for years,” he said, adding many people worked hard on the referendum. “We’re going to be able to keep going — it’s great.”