Munster gets county approval for May referendum
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent February 19, 2013 1:30PM
Updated: February 19, 2013 4:35PM
Munster voters will get to decide May 7 whether they are willing to pay more to keep the high-achieving school town operating at status quo.
Tuesday the Lake County Board of Elections approved placing a referendum on the ballot May 7 seeking to create a new levy of 19.9 cents per $100 of assessed value to raise taxes in its general fund. The new levy would be in place for seven years and will be in addition all other existing property tax levies for the school. It will be the only question on the ballot.
The new levy is expected to raise $21 million over the seven-year period. For a house valued at $244,835, the increase would add $253 to the tax bill.
Superintendent Richard Sopko said the school system finds itself in a position where it is impossible to operate with its current general funds. Without an immediate new revenue source, cuts will have to be made to programs and staffing. The school system ranks 348th in the state in terms of dollars spent per student.
“We are in desperate need of these funds. If we wait beyond May we will have to make staffing decisions,” Sopko said.
School officials have conducted about 150 one-on-one meetings with constituents, hosted public forums and have brought the issue before a variety of civic organizations and so far the support has been positive.
“The overwhelming response from the public is they do not was to see programs cut,” Sopko said.
James Weiser, Democratic attorney for the board, said the school system has met all the statutory requirements to seek the referendum. The Munster School Board approved the referendum question Feb. 11 and since then the school has received approval to go forward from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.
Michelle Fajman, director of the Board of Elections and Voter Registration said there are 25 precincts in Munster and 13 polling places, five of which are inside Munster schools.
Polling places for the election must be determined by April 5.
If the school system wants to make any changes to the polling places those changes must be presented to the Board of Elections to be considered at the March meeting to make that deadline. Voters will then be notified of any changes.