If you have driven around the region these last few years during the month of April, you may have seen signs in yards asking voters to vote “yes” on a school referendum.
In 2008, the state legislature passed a law that changes the ways that a district is able to levy taxes for the operation of schools within the district or for the cost of construction. Since that time, several districts within the state have had referendum votes for small tax increases to offset the limitations set by the law. I live in Hebron and it took two separate elections to pass one in our school district.
The first vote in 2013 failed by only four votes- 547 to 543. The defeat resulted in Metropolitan School District of Boone Township having to make several cutbacks. The greatest of which was the termination of six teachers, which meant some classes would be overcrowded. In a town with nearly 2,500 residents, voter apathy may have played a role in the measure being defeated the first time. In our family's case, we did not vote in this election, and thus did not vote for the measure at all. At that time, our home was not affected by passage or defeat, since our oldest child was not yet in school.
The measure did pass the following April, and it did so by just 23 votes. The passed measure called for an increase of $0.21 per $100 of assessed property value. This meant that a home with an assessed value of $135,000 would see an annual tax increase of around $130. We did vote yes on the second referendum, because our son was about to begin Kindergarten that following August, so we wanted to ensure we were investing in his education. On his first day of school, his class size consisted of only 22 children.
These two elections brought out much emotion on opposing sides of the measure. For us, we were looking out for what we felt was in the best interest of our children. For a couple in town on a fixed income, whose children have already been through school, I can certainly understand the reason for them voting no. Although these referendums are fairly new, it is still too soon to tell if there will be a long-lasting impact. In the case of our district, seeing exceptional grades on our son’s report card is a great start.