May 7, 2024

Here’s which Indiana school referendum passed in the primary election

Voters in Pike Township approved a $14.5 million annual levy in the May 7 primary election. - Eric Weddle / WFYI

Voters in Pike Township approved a $14.5 million annual levy in the May 7 primary election.

Eric Weddle / WFYI

Three of four referendums to increase local taxes for school districts passed in the primary election on Tuesday.

Voters in Pike Township approved a $14.5 million annual levy. Most of those funds will raise teacher pay and provide more academic support for students. The approval also triggers a law that requires a portion of the property tax funds be divided with nearby charter schools — this is the first time that will happen in Indiana.

A law passed in 2023 now requires the money from approved district referendums in Marion County and three other counties be distributed between the district and charter schools that enroll a student who lives in the district.

Pike Superintendent Larry Young previously told WFYI that some of the charter schools who opted into the referendum may not be eligible. That suggestion worries school choice advocates, who fear an impending conflict because the law does not designate a state agency to determine whether a charter is eligible.

Pike’s eight year levy passed with 59 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Like most Indiana school districts, Pike Township has been using federal pandemic stimulus funds to boost instruction. The money bulks  up interventions for students impacted by COVID-19 disruptions. But those funds are ending.

Now the voter approved tax increase will maintain those supports. It will pay for staff who work alongside classroom teachers to help students grasp vital skills.

In other parts of the state, the referendum for Fremont Community Schools in Steuben County passed with nearly 52 percent of the vote. The renewal of a 2015 levy will generate $2.3 million annually. Most of the funds will cover teacher and staff pay.

Brown County Schools will get $1.87 million annually to cover teacher and staff pay and benefits. Nearly 55 percent of voters approved an increase and renewal for a property tax rate previously passed in 2016. The district faced a defeat in 2022 when it sought a similar referendum.

But in Henry County, voters soundly rejected the referendum for Blue River Valley Schools. Preliminary results show 83 percent of the vote was against the levy.  The district was asking for a property tax increase to fund just $360,000 a year to cover teacher and staff salaries.

The Blue River Valley superintendent is Trent McCormick, the husband of Jennifer McCormick, the Democrat candidate for governor. McCormick, the former state superintendent of public instruction, ran uncontested in the primary.

How does a property tax referendum work?

Indiana imposes caps on property taxes based on assessed value rates according to property type: 1 percent for owner-occupied homes, 2 percent for other residential properties and farmland, and 3 percent for all other property. However, if voters approve a local referendum, property tax bills can surpass the cap, with the surplus taxes directed to the local school district.

Here are the local public questions for school referendums from the primary ballot. The totals for operation levies are based on the net assessed valuation of taxable property in the district boundary earlier this year. The value can change.

Blue River Valley School Corporation, Henry County - FAIL

  • Property tax rate: $0.19 per $100 assessed value for eight years.
  • Total revenue over eight years: $2,876,752.
  • How $359,594 of annual revenue will be spent: Teacher and staff salaries, attracting new staff.

Brown County School Corp., Brown County - PASS

  • Renewal of a property tax rate previously approved in 2016: $0.10 per $100 assessed value for eight years. The current rate is $0.08.
  • Total revenue over eight years: $15,032,408.
  • How $1,879,051 of annual revenue will be spent: Teacher and staff salaries, benefits ($1,691,146); Career resource center ($187,905).

Fremont Community Schools, Steuben County - PASS

  • Renewal of a property tax rate previously approved in 2015: $0.15 per $100 assessed value for eight years. The current rate is $0.1963.
  • Total revenue over eight years: $19,077,752.
  • How $2,384,719 of annual revenue will be spent: Retraining and attracting teachers and staff ($1,660,525), academic programs ($424,194), and operations ($300,000).

MSD Pike Township, Marion County - PASS

  • Property tax rate: $0.24 per $100 assessed value for eight years.
  • Total revenue over eight years: $116,000,000.
  • How $14,500,000 of annual revenue will be spent: Salaries and benefits for approximately 57 staff members including teachers, social workers, and counselors, plus staff recruitment and technology for learning loss ($4,500,000); Staff wages, retention, recruitment, and professional development ($9,000,000); Additional school resource officers, other security personnel and safety equipment ($1,000,000).
  • Here are the charter schools that could receive a share of the Pike referendum funds, according to the district. Estimated annual revenue share is in parentheses.
    • BELIEVE Circle City High School ($13,693)
    • Christel House Academy West ($7,607)
    • Enlace Academy ($31,950)
    • Herron Charter ($71,507)
    • Herron Preparatory Academy ($30,428)
    • Herron-Riverside High School ($59,335)
    • IN Math & Science Academy ($82,157)
    • IN Math & Science Academy - North ($33,471)
    • Matchbook Learning ($6,086)
    • Paramount Brookside ($10,650)
    • Paramount Cottage Home ($9,129)
    • Paramount Englewood ($6,086)
    • Purdue Polytechnic High School North ($24,343)
    • Purdue Polytechnic High School ($10,650)
    • Vision Academy ($15,214)

This story was updated with unofficial results from the Indiana Election Division.

Eric Weddle is the WFYI education editor. Contact Eric at eweddle@wfyi.org.

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