INDIANAPOLIS — Voters in Perry Township voted on the future of the school district’s referendum funding Tuesday.
Perry Township Schools was looking to renew their operating referendum. The referendum was last approved in 2015 for a $0.4212 tax. While the wording on the public question implies a property tax increase, the district emphasizes that this referendum would not raise people’s taxes.
On Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly decided to approve the renewal. More than 60% of voters approved the referendum.
Pat Mapes, superintendent of Perry Township Schools, said the referendum funding helps them support more than 200 positions. It also helps them fund transportation costs, including half a million dollars in fuel supplies.
- 193 teaching positions across the district in Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, including business, art, music, and Project Lead The Way classrooms.
- 20 Assistant Principals in all levels of buildings
- 17 Technology positions
- 14 Instructional and Special Education Assistants
- $1.5 million dollars in transportation costs including $500,000 in fuel supplies.
Without the funding, Mapes said the district would have faced larger class sizes, and the elimination of courses in art, music, band, and physical education.
"With the state career pathways, you're going to see some elimination of fine arts in that process, because there's really not a graduation pathway that leads you down that path for a diploma," Said Mapes. "We would look at our extracurricular activities, the sports, as well as the fine arts with choir and music and band. We'd have to eliminate some assistant positions in those areas."
On the school's referendum page, Mapes said they would have been forced to eliminate 193 teaching positions, which make up nearly 20% of their teaching staff. Busing would also be reduced and many students would have to walk to school as a result.
Mapes said the district has been using the funding to help support their academic programs, helping them be recognized as a top-performing school.
"We've taken those dollars and really shown that we can grow our kids academically so they can achieve what they would like to after they leave a K-12 setting," said Mapes. "When you have a strong academic school, people want to move here. Which drives the prices of homes up so your property value increases."
Mapes said they will continue to use the funding to be good stewards of the funding. He hopes they will be able to eventually lower the rate.
"Our job as a district is to make sure that if our enrollment changes we manage the extra referendum dollars. Hopefully, we can, over the eight-year period, lower the rate," said Mapes. "We're not adding any new programming. We're not adding any new staff. We were just maintaining there the quality of instruction and services that we currently have."
Mapes wanted to thank community members for coming out to support them Tuesday. He said it provided tangible feedback to how the community feels they are doing as a district.
"There's hardly many opportunities for feedback like that, and there's an expectation in your community that you provided quality education," said Mapes. "But when you have to run a referendum and people have to come out and say 'yes, we do see what you're doing to support our children and we do see the impact you're having on our community in a positive fashion because of the schools that you offer.' That's something that every educator in Perry Township should feel good about and something that we obviously are grateful that our community supports us in such a way."
Mapes hopes legislators will review the referendum process for schools to make it easier for voters to understand what the districts are asking from them. They want people to be informed and be transparent. He said they shouldn't have to worry about people needing to dissect a question when they go in to vote.