Parents, community members hear more on Elkhart schools referendum

A public meeting on the referendum was held Monday, March 10.

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 10:11 p.m. | Updated on March 10, 2014 at 10:49 p.m.

ELKHART  -- Yanet Rayo didn't move to a different home last year because of Elkhart Community Schools' cuts to transportation, and she's about to make another sacrifice for the school system.

She's about to vote for higher property taxes so the schools can get the funds they need.

Rayo, whose daughter goes to Roosevelt Elementary, was at a public meeting Monday, March 10, at Pierre Moran Middle School where school administration explained why the district is asking for money with a referendum. She came, she said, because she's concerned about children who walk to school.

"I came to see if there was anything that could be done," Rayo said, smoothing her daughter's hair as she spoke after the meeting. 

She's attended other school meetings like this one — meetings last year where the district presented cuts it would need to make to the transportation budget. Those cuts concerned her so much that she didn't want to move from her home, which is close,she said, to Roosevelt.

She didn't know the district needed so much money, and it was "eye-opening" to hear that some of the buildings are in disrepair. It's clear to her that the referendum is necessary.

"I do agree to raise the property taxes," Rayo said. "They raise it for other things that are pointless. Education is very important."

Another mom, Tami Lapp, listened carefully, took notes, and asked questions at Monday's meeting. She said she's not sure the referendum will pass because the vote on May 6 is coming up fast.

"If this doesn't pass and they have to start cutting programs, our kids will suffer," she said, adding that she has children at Pierre Moran Middle School and Central High School.

Superintendent Rob Haworth kept his audience's attention Monday by using visuals — including his son's army men and Legos — to illustrate how much money the district has lost to property tax caps.

The district's losses were $5.2 million just in 2013, he said, and projected to be more this year. After sharing what the district would buy with referendum money, he reminded listeners that the fate of the schools' immediate future could be in their hands.

"You have to decide if this is our future or if there is a different future for us," Haworth said.

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Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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