Editor's note: This story was revised Tuesday, Jan. 14, to correct a reference to State Sen. Carlin Yoder and the spelling of a parent's name. The Elkhart Truth regrets the errors.
ELKHART — There's a difference between Concord schools' referendum and the referenda proposed by two other local school districts.
Goshen schools asked its community to vote for building improvements, and won that support in November's election. Elkhart schools will ask its community to vote for safety updates, building repairs, and a major change to transportation.
But Concord needs the money just to survive.
“If it (the referendum) does not pass, it will be catastrophic,” school board president Randall Myers said during a board meeting Monday night, Jan. 13. “It will be Concord as we have never seen it before.”
The school has proposed asking for an additional tax levy of up to $0.405 for every $100 of assessed property value. Concord superintendent Wayne Stubbs gave numbers on Monday reflecting typical homestead and mortgage deductions, and estimated that a home worth $100,000 would be taxed about $132 more each year if the referendum were approved.
The school board voted to put the general fund operating referendum on the ballot in May, but not before four people from the audience gave their thoughts.
Local resident Dawn Fisher fought tears as she explained to the school board that she “gets a twinge of pride” when she sees a Concord school bus on the road.
“I was in awe of the human potential riding on those wheels,” she said, adding that all citizens have a responsibility to care about the education of local children.
Another speaker, Larry Shank, said he feels the school corporation “doesn't have a lot of options” other than a referendum.
He believes that local legislators Tim Neese and Tim Wesco aren't in a position to help schools with funding issues brought about by the property tax cap. State Sen. Carlin Yoder, Shank said, is a leader of a private school and “the assumption is that he would not be willing to lobby for funding for public schools.”
Jami Stamm, a parent and real estate agent, said that she's concerned that if Concord continues to lose funding, local property values in the district will go down as people move to areas with better schools.
“If we do not provide the funding that Concord needs to maintain the excellence it has become known for, I'm concerned about what that will mean for property values,” Stamm said.
But local farmer Jim Weeber said he pays high taxes already and the referendum would increase his costs even more.
“I don't do capital projects at my farm, because I'm about taxed off it now,” he said in Monday's meeting. “The only reason I'm still there is because of a couple generations of frugality.”
He also pointed out that his rental home on the farm property would not qualify for a homestead deduction, meaning that he wouldn't fall under the tax rate figured by the school.
Stubbs reminded those at the meeting that the school district isn't looking to fund any new projects. The referendum would only make up for the losses the school has experienced due to property tax caps.
“We are not asking to build anything new — nothing,” he said. “We are asking to be able to do what we need to do.”
Stubbs said after the meeting that the referendum would bring a little under $4 million to the school corporation each year, or about $28 million for the entire seven year period of the additional tax levy.