May 2, 2023

These Indiana schools won a property-tax referendum in the May primary

Some superintendents were worried voters in the May 2, 2023 primary election could be swayed to vote against a referendum because of an incorrect assumption of how much their own property taxes would increase.  - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Some superintendents were worried voters in the May 2, 2023 primary election could be swayed to vote against a referendum because of an incorrect assumption of how much their own property taxes would increase.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Seven of the 10 Indiana school districts with ballot questions to approve property-tax levies won voters' support in Tuesday’s primary election.

Most of the districts warned of program or staffing cuts if the local funding was not approved. Many school leaders now rely on these additional funds to pay for teacher salaries and academics, and multiple districts won approval to renew a current levy.

The Indianapolis Public Schools district won a $410 million capital referendum to repair and update more than 20 school buildings and athletics facilities.  The district also considered placing an operating referendum on the May ballot but decided to postpone it due to opposition from community members and charter schools. 

"You all chose IPS and said 'yes' to IPS. And for that reason our students are going to benefit so greatly form your investment and your support," IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said in a video taken from inside the former Broad Ripple High School. The building will now undergo $39 million in upgrades to become a middle school. 

But three communities did not support their school districts’ tax levy requests. Tri-Creek School Corp. in Lake County announced it would now have to cut approximately $1 million from the budget. In a statement the district said all current employees would be able to keep their jobs through the current school year.

“We have a lot to celebrate about our current students, programs, and successes,” read the statement on the district website. “It’s time to move on and finish the school year strong with a focus on what is most important – the students that fill the classrooms of our schools.”

The School Town of Highland, also in Lake County, lost its first referendum. The levy would have brought in nearly $4.8 million annually for eight years. The district has lost millions of dollars in recent years to an ongoing enrollment decline.

Fremont Community Schools is Steuben County lost with 54 percent of votes agains the levy.

Some superintendents were worried voters could be swayed to vote against a referendum because of an incorrect assumption of how much their own property taxes would increase. A 2021 law requires the ballot question to include the estimated average percentage of property tax increase paid to the school district — not the property owner. 

Some school districts ran information campaigns explaining the question and calling the required language “misleading.” 

Indiana's property taxes are capped at assessed value rates based on the type of property: 1 percent for owner-occupied homes, 2 percent for other residential properties and farmland, and 3 percent for all other property. But if voters approve a local referendum, a property tax bill can exceed the cap and the extra taxes go to the local school district.

Here are unofficial results reported by county election offices and the proposed tax levy:

Indianapolis Public Schools, Marion County - Pass

Property tax rate: $0.2066 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Capital project total:  $410,000,000

Clinton Central School Corporation, Clinton County - Pass

Property tax rate: $0.15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $675,000

Fremont Community Schools, Steuben County - Fail

Property tax rate: $0.1963 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $2,932,947

MSD of Warren Township, Marion County - Pass

Property tax rate: $0.30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $11,036,402

School City of Mishawaka, St. Joseph County - Pass

Property tax rate: $0.2434 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $2,700,000

School Town of Highland, Lake County - Fail

Property tax rate: $0.3204 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $4,793,334

School Town of Munster, Lake County - Pass

Property tax rate: $0.4196 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $8,895,000

School Town of Speedway, Marion County - Pass

Property tax rate:  $0.59 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $5,815,605 

Tri-County School Corporation, Benton, Jasper, and White Counties - Pass

Property tax rate: $0.2737 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $2,479,244

Tri-Creek School Corporation, Lake County - Fail

Property tax rate: $0.2050 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight years.

Annual operation revenue: $3,600,000

WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel and IPB News reporter Kirsten Adair contributed to this story.

Contact WFYI education editor Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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