Both Elkhart and Concord school corporations are asking people who live in their district to vote for an increase in taxes this May.
Both schools, struggling to operate with less money after statewide property tax caps went into effect, have said that a referendum is the best way for them to recoup lost funds. The state allows schools to collect more money in taxes this way for a certain number of years, but only if a majority of voters approve of the plan.
The schools have released wish lists detailing what they would do with the money. But local residents may wonder exactly how much more in taxes they might have to pay if these school referenda pass.
First of all, a referendum directly affects only property owners, since the extra money for the schools would be coming from additional property taxes.
According to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau information, 72 percent of homes in Elkhart County are "owner occupied." The median home value in the county is $120,700.
Elkhart Community Schools will actually have two referenda on the ballot, one that would fund transportation and one that would fund safety updates and building repairs. If both referenda pass, taxpayers are looking at an increased rate of about 18 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
Elkhart's wish list
Elkhart Community Schools hopes to use referendum money for:
- Safety updates to all school buildings (door locks, more cameras, remodeling of some "open concept" classrooms).
- Repairs and maintenance to buildings and grounds.
- New buses to pick up more students, eliminating the 2-mile walk zones and long bus rides.
A taxpayer living in a home that they own worth $120,700 would pay a max of $65 more in taxes per year for Elkhart's referendum, according to information provided by the state Department of Local Government Finance. This is figuring in a homestead deduction and a supplemental homestead deduction.
A taxpayer who owns property worth the same amount that doesn't qualify for either a homestead or a supplemental homestead deduction would pay a max of $159 in additional taxes per year.
Concord Community Schools' referendum could fund new buses, more bus routes to pick up more students, school-sponsored field trips, facility repairs and the staff needed to maintain appropriate class sizes.
The district was able to pay for these things before property tax caps, but now is having a hard time with the funds it has available. For example, Superintendent Wayne Stubbs said that some of the district's buses are almost 15 years old.
Also, there are major repairs needed on the school buildings that that the district just can't afford at this point.
Concord's wish list
Concord Community Schools hopes to be able to pay for items it used to be able to afford before tax caps. Those include:
- New buses, and flexibility in bus routes
- Repairs to school buildings
- Field trips paid for by the school
- Enough staff to maintain appropriate class sizes
If Concord's referendum passes, taxpayers would be facing an increased rate of about 40 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
A taxpayer living in a home that they own worth $120,700 would pay a max of $199 more in taxes per year for Concord's referendum, according to information provided by the state department of local government finance. That's after a homestead deduction and supplemental homestead deduction is taken out.
A taxpayer who owns property worth the same amount that doesn't qualify for either a homestead or a supplemental homestead deduction would pay a max of $489 more in taxes per year for Concord's referendum.
Indiana's Department of Local Government Finance has an online calculator that property owners can use to figure out how much they will pay for specific school referendum situations. That calculator can be found at www.in.gov/dglf, under Referendum Information.