Union Township schools consider tax hike referendum
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent November 27, 2012 9:50PM
Updated: December 29, 2012 6:23AM
UNION TOWNSHIP — Township residents are going to have to consider an increase in property taxes to keep the school system functioning or drastic cuts in school programs and staff.
That means a likely referendum vote for the Union Township School Corp., and Superintendent John Hunter said he plans to bring the matter to the School Board for a vote in December.
Before that happens, the school corporation wants to hear from residents and whether they want it and what their concerns are, Hunter said at a special meeting Tuesday night.
“Our revenue is now less than our expenditures,” Hunter said. “We have to raise revenues or cut programs, and I do not want to cut programs.”
The corporation has used up its savings to keep the schools going, but it has also made cuts that didn’t directly effect students, he said.
Revenues have decreased from $9.7 million in 2008 to $9.2 million this year.
The referendum would be no more 22 cents per $100 assessed valuation on property for seven years, raising about $1 million more each year.
The board could vote for a lower rate each annual renewal but never higher.
A $100,000 home would see an annual increase of about $65.17 in annual property taxes, while a $300,000 property would see a $323.88 increase. Farm land worth $84,500 would see a $179.82 increase, and all property would see an increase, even those reaching the tax caps.
“The schools, without a doubt, are the lifeblood of this community,” Board President Mike Jessen said.
“Up to now, we haven’t been in a position where we’ve had to make any drastic or dramatic cuts in student programs,” Jessen said.
If there are cuts, people will have to decide what they want to sacrifice, he said.
A video shown at the meeting suggested athletics, band and choral programs, drama programs, summer reading programs, cheer squads and elementary art, physical education and computer classes.
Instead of having the approximately 100 attendees ask questions about the referendum, school officials had them go into the cafeteria to various tables and ask questions of teachers and helpers there.
Those questions will be submitted to Hunter and staff, and in about a week, the questions and answers will go up on the district’s website.
A random sampling of the questions people submitted showed little opposition to the idea of the referendum.
Some asked if the referendum would allow the school to restore the cutbacks already made, when the referendum would go up for vote and how the corporation will sell the referendum to senior citizens who don’t have youngsters in school but make up the majority of voters.
Someone wanted to know if enrollment continues to decrease, would expenses also decrease.
Another person suggested the school district needs to sell the referendum as a way to keep property values high.