June 6, 2018

IPS Will Ask Taxpayers For $52 Million Funding Increase For School Safety, Building Improvements

Indianapolis Public Schools central office in downtown Indianapolis. - Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Indianapolis Public Schools central office in downtown Indianapolis.

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Originally published June 4, 2018. Updated June 6, 2018.

Indianapolis Public Schools leaders will ask voters for $52 million in new property taxes on the November ballot to pay for increased safety measures and improvements at more than 60 buildings.

The school board approved the request Wednesday night during a public hearing. 

Just three months ago the district sought a $200 capital fund request but pulled it from the May ballot in response to community concerns.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee says he thinks this referendum has more public support than an earlier one. The district canceled a much larger referendum proposal earlier this year, in response to public criticism.

“I know that was one of the criticisms that we received in the past is that we didn’t spend a lot of time educating the community on the needs," he said. I feel confident now in where we are.”

The bulk of the November ballot request would go toward fire and safety improvements, such as replacing outdoor lights with LED lights and retrofitting 2,500 doors across the district with a new locking mechanism.

IPS Chief of Staff Amhed Young said some previous priorities were cut for the new plan to be more economically feasible for taxpayers. Upgrading classroom technology and equipment is no longer being funded by the capital request. 

“There were really difficult decisions that ultimately had to be made. We had to think about it from a holistic standpoint,” Young said during a hearing Monday evening. “And that holistic standpoint, big picture macro-level, is centered on not only focusing on the capital, but how it relates to setting us up for success for the operating referendum.”

State officials will next approve the district's request for the November ballot. The proposed local property levy would cost homeowners 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Next month, the IPS Board will hold hearings on an operating funds referendum, also planned for the November election. The district previously sought $736 million in property taxes before canceling the May ballot initiative. 

The Indy Chamber asked the school board to postpone the two referendums, which totaled nearly $1 billion until November. The Chamber is working with the district on details of the operating funds referendum.

Here is a breakdown of how the $52 million for capital funds would be spent if approved:

  • Fire prevention/response $17,328,100
  • External safety measures $10,080,000
  • Internal safety measures $7,660,000
  • Emergency communication $5,410,000
  • Deferred maintenance $11,200,000

Schools due for new roofs would receive the most improvement funds: Arsenal Tech High School at $5.9 million; Paul I. Miller School 114 at $4.1 million, and George Washington High School at $3.4 million.

For details on which improvement each school would receive download this document.

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