Voters in Marion County rejected one school district referendum while another was easily approved, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.
Homeowners in the Franklin Township Community School Corp. decided an overhaul of the high school was not worth an increase in their property taxes. The levy was soundly defeated.
This is the fourth time Franklin Schools failed to pass a property tax referendum. It remains the only corporation out of 11 Marion County school districts that has not passed a property tax referendum.
Perry Township Schools easily won its referendum that will continue the tax rate of a previous levy passed in 2015. Those funds will continue to cover the salary of hundreds of educators and staff.
A property tax increase approved by voters is not subject to the state’s property tax caps, including the 1 percent cap for homes. That means revenue generated from the additional rate on a property tax bill goes to the school district that requested the referendum.
Across the state Tuesday, voters approved seven school out of nine referendums.
Franklin Township Schools
The Franklin Township Schools, on the southeast side of Marion County, failed to win voter approval for a nearly $100 million property tax referendum that would have paid for school building construction.
The referendum would have generated $98.4 million over 22 years. Most of the funds would have gone toward expanding the high school and about $9.5 million would have covered construction costs at six elementary schools, as well as bond issuance costs.
School staff said the high school’s aging 50-year-old high school building, as well as the increase in enrollment, means the district needed a referendum in order to expand the district to support students.
A district spokesperson declined a request for comment Tuesday evening.
Perry Township Schools
Voters in south central Marion County approved an ongoing property tax referendum for Perry Township Schools to support teacher and staff pay, transportation and other operating expenses. According to Superintendent Patrick Mapes, voter approval prevented the district from eliminating more than 200 jobs and reducing transportation services.
The referendum will generate $19.3 million per year — $154.4 million over eight years. This is a renewal of a previous property tax increase passed by 55 percent of voters in May 2015.
Tuesday evening Perry Township Superintendent Patrick Mapes said voters’ renewal of the referendum is a relief.
“When you're talking about the number of staff people that we have tied to our referendum dollars – teaching, as well as instructional assistants and assistant principals – it's good to know that we're not going to have to go through and notify people that they're not going to have jobs,” Mapes said. “And we're gonna be able to continue our quality programs that we have.”
Despite the win, Mapes still had concerns about a 2021 state law that changed the ballot language, and requires school districts to list the percentages about a school's average property tax revenue, which could be confusing to voters.
“I think the ballot language should be more clear,” Mapes said. “I think there should be language if you're trying to go out for the very first time for the tax, and I think there should be language that changes if you're asking for a renewal.”
Unofficial results from Marion County primary election are available here. Certified vote counts will be released by May 16.