GOSHEN — Goshen schools is seeking the public’s support for a $17.5 million project that would bring a new pool and other improvements to the schools.
Those living in the Goshen schools district can vote on Nov. 5 either for or against the project. A majority of “yes” votes means that the project will be funded by additional property taxes for people who own property in the district.
Some who live in Goshen don’t think that the project is a good idea, for several different reasons.
High cost to taxpayers
Carl Van Gilst of Goshen said on Tuesday, Oct. 22, that he feels it’s unfair that people who don’t own property — and therefore wouldn’t be affected by increased property taxes — are allowed to vote.
“Everybody who lives in town, whether they rent an apartment or anything, gets their word in equally,” Van Gilst said.
He pointed out the additional taxes are predicted to be just $3.09 per month for the average person who owns a home in Goshen. But that amount is significantly higher for people who own commercial property.
Information prepared by Goshen schools, presented in several public meetings and available to view on the school corporation’s website, states that if the building project is approved in the Nov. 5 vote, the additional taxes on a commercial property worth $100,000 would be $109.80 per year, or $9.15 per month.
Van Gilst said the tax burden on commercial property owners such as himself would be too much.
“I just happened to decide to invest in the city of Goshen, and I invested heavily in commercial property,” Van Gilst said.
He continued, “There are a lot of people in the same situation as I am. But we are the minority, and the minority has to pay for (the project).”
He also said that he thinks it’s unconstitutional for the school to ask people to pay taxes above the property tax caps. He suggested that the school continue maintaining the pools rather than replace them.
“I’m afraid the vote will pass because there are just thousands of people who it’s not going to cost anything, so why not vote for it?” Van Gilst said. “I won’t be surprised if (the vote) goes through, I’ll just be upset.”
Safety should be priority
Another Goshen resident, Mildred Farrier, said that she feels Goshen schools have the wrong priorities when it comes to this project.
“We’ve had a pretty big cut in transportation, and I think we should address safety first and academics second,” Farrier said on Oct. 23. “Those are things we should address before a $10 million swimming pool.”
Farrier said it’s not safe for children, especially those in elementary grades, to be walking to school when it’s dark and cold outside.
“I would not want to walk down those streets myself, by myself,” Farrier said. “My number one priority is safety for the kids. I don’t think it’s reasonable to put young children out on the dark streets in the morning in all kinds of weather. I think that’s not responsible for us as a school and as a community.”
Farrier added that she would be happy to vote for a property tax increase if it was funding transportation for students.
“I definitely would have supported anything having to do with funding transportation, but I will not support this,” Farrier said. “I want to support my schools. I’ve had children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren here (at Goshen schools). But I think that there was no community input on the transportation cuts. And (the school system) has been pretty vocal to ask for this (the building project). I just don’t think it’s the right way to go.”
Pool won’t benefit everybody
Deborah Morgan of Goshen echoed several other people’s reservations specifically about the new pool.
Morgan said on Oct. 22 that she thinks just a few students will benefit from building a new pool, and that the pool is not worth the cost to taxpayers.
“Mostly I’m concerned about the future transportation costs, with busing students back and forth to the pool,” Morgan said. “I don’t think we need a pool a the middle school at all. If we want to pay for a competition pool, it should go in the high school.”
Morgan noted that she’s not opposed to any other portion of the project, like the additional space for music programs or cafeteria areas.
Who’s already voted?
Absentee voting for the Nov. 5 election has been open since Sept. 21, according to Chris Anderson, chief deputy clerk of Elkhart County.
“As of last Friday at 3 p.m., we’ve had 63 votes,” Anderson said on Wednesday, Oct. 23. “Right now, I would estimate that it’s less than 100. That’s extremely slow.”
Anderson noted that people may vote absentee for many reasons, the most common reasons being that the person is older than 65, has disabilities or will be busy with election duties or work on Election Day.
He added that votes by mail must be received by midnight Oct. 28. In-person absentee voting at the Goshen administration building ends at noon Nov. 4.
Hours that in-person absentee voting is available are:
Mondays (except Nov. 4) — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday through Friday — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 26 — 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 2 — 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 4 — 8 a.m. to noon.
The Goshen administration building is located at 117 N. Second St., Goshen. Mailed votes should be sent to Elkhart County Election Board, ATTN: Christopher, 101 N. Main St., Room 204, Goshen, IN 46526.
Goshen Schools will host one final public information meeting on the building project at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 30 in the Goshen Middle School auditorium.