IPS board approves plan to reduce referendum amount from $939 million to $725 million

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indianapolis Public Schools board of commissioners voted to reduce the amount of money they will ask taxpayers for through a referendum on the May ballot. The move comes after community groups and a member of the State Board of Education raised concerns about the $939 million proposal.

The board approved a plan presented by Superintendent Lewis Ferebee Tuesday that will lower the operational referendum amount from about $739 million over eight years to just over $525.7 million over that same timeframe. The capital improvements referendum will remain the same at $200 million.

The announcement comes after Gordon Hendry, a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, spoke strongly about the referendum during a meeting last week, calling it the “most nonchalant billion dollar tax increase ever approved by anyone.”

“I want IPS to be successful but also think we have to be careful with how we ask for and use taxpayer dollars,” Hendry said Tuesday. “That’s why I’m asking IPS to take their time, get it right and make the case to the community for how much they really do need.”

Some community groups, like the IPS Community Coalition, have also voiced concerns about the referendums. Some felt there had been no detailed spending plan presented to the community for the additional property tax money.

Earlier Tuesday, Ferebee detailed spending plans for the revised operational referendum. If approved by the public, the referendum would bring in $65.7 million a year, for eight years, for the district. According to the superintendent, the yearly amounts would be broken up as follows:

  • $48.7 million for teacher compensation
  • $8 million for services and supplies
  • $2 million for building and equipment maintenance
  • $7 million for transportation

Ferebee said reducing the referendum amount comes with trade-offs. For instance, he said the lesser amount will not allow the district to expand transportation services and will force them to delay maintenance plans at some facilities.

“We have to find a number that is the right number to not shortchange our educational mission but also is one taxpayers can live with,” said Michael O’Connor, IPS Board President. “And, it isn’t easy.”

You can find out how the referendums would impact your property tax bill here.

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