MONROE COUNTY, Ind. — As Monroe County Community School Corporation’s (MCCSC) referendum is set to expire, corporation leaders hope the community will help them keep up with rising costs.
When voters in Monroe County head to the polls on Nov. 8, they will have their opportunity to vote on a referendum proposed by the corporation, which wants to increase the original referendum tax rate by $0.045.
In 2010, voters in Monroe County approved an operating levy rate of $0.14 per $100 of assessed property value. The November referendum would increase that to $0.185. With that rate, an average home in Monroe County would see a $125 yearly increase above current property taxes, or about $10.40 a month.
The corporation says 93% of current referendum dollars go to teacher and staff salaries.
If the referendum passes, the corporation says it plans to increase teacher salaries by $4,500 per year. It would also boost support staff wages by $2.25 per hour. MCCSC says this would help make them more competitive in hiring and retaining teachers while aligning support staff wages with market rates.
MCCSC also plans to spend $1.2 million on the following:
- Special education services
- Performing Arts/STEM/Special Programming
- Additional staff support services
MCCSC said the Board of School Trustees determined the proposed levy amount through a community engagement process, including a community opinion survey. The corporation says 83% of residents who completed a survey were in favor of the proposal to increase the referendum funding. Between community feedback and school needs, the board was able to decide on the $0.045 increase.
Still, corporation leadership says taxpayers may be confused when they head to the poll. The language of the ballot question will say that their school tax rate is increasing by 35%. This is because state law requires schools to state an operating levy tax increase as a percentage over the non-referendum tax rate.
MCCSC explained that while the authorized tax rate is increasing from $0.14 to $0.185 per $100 of property value, the ballot calculates the increase from 0. The percentage only seems high because of the corporation’s extremely low standard tax rate, and because the current approved referendum rate is not included.
Corporation leadership says its current tax rate is $0.54 without the 2016 referendum and $0.63 with the 2016 referendum. In comparison, the average school district tax rate in Indiana is $1.10.
If the referendum does not pass, MCCSC said it faces a fiscal cliff. The corporation says the existing operating levy, along with state funding, is not keeping pace with inflation.
Without an operating levy, and without budget adjustments, MCCSC says its cash balance would drop below zero in two years. They would likely need to enact educational cuts and wage and salary stagnation.
The corporation also says they may need to cut 100 or more positions if the referendum funding does not pass.
You can follow the results of the referendum below: