May 2, 2023

School referendums pass for IPS, Warren, Speedway districts

Eric Weddle / WFYI

Eric Weddle / WFYI

Marion County voters approved property tax referendums for three school districts during the Tuesday primary election. That includes a $410 million capital referendum for the state's largest school district — Indianapolis Public Schools.  

IPS leaders need the funds to carry out their vast Rebuilding Stronger plan, which aims to boost poor academic performance by creating middle schools for grades 6-8 and provide similar academic and athletic offerings in all communities.

The new dollars will pay for improvements at nearly two dozen buildings, and construct a new $34.6 million elementary school to replace the current Joyce Kilmer School 69 facility on the northeast side of Indianapolis. 

Tuesday evening, IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said she’s grateful to the community and hopes the funds will make every student feel valued and loved.

“I am extremely humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude by the support we received,” Johnson said. “I would like to thank those who voted for the capital referendum for showing our students and staff that support isn’t just an attitude or feeling — it’s an action. I can’t wait for the exciting months we have ahead.” 

The capital referendum was approved by roughly 59 percent of voters, according to preliminary results.

The district considered placing a new operating referendum on the May ballot, in addition to the capital referendum, but decided to postpone it due to mounting community opposition. Many teachers, students, parents and longtime district partners — such as the Indy Chamber, The Mind Trust and Stand for Children — said they wouldn’t vote for the $413.6 million operating property tax referendum, the way it was proposed. 

For now, the average local property tax levy for homeowners near IPS will be no more than $0.2066 per $100 of assessed value. This will add $3.18 per month in property taxes to median-valued property owners.

Warren gets more funds to keep up with rising costs

Homeowners in the MSD of Warren Township School district approved an $88 million operating referendum to fund bus transportation, counselor and support staff wages, technology, safety upgrades and academic programming. 

In 2018, Warren voters overwhelmingly approved an operating levy for a rate of 21 cents. But Matthew Parkinson, chief financial officer of the Warren Township School district, previously said those funds haven’t been enough to keep up with inflation increases, as well as maintaining competitive salaries during the national teacher shortage. 

The operating referendum was narrowly approved by roughly 52 percent of voters.

The previous referendum will expire at the end of 2023 and be replaced by the new referendum, which will generate roughly $11 million annually for each of the next 8 years for the school district on Indianapolis’ east side. 

The average local property tax levy for Warren Township homeowners will be $0.30 per $100 of assessed value for eight years.

Speedway voters approve third referendum renewal 

Roughly 79 percent of voters on the northwest side of Indianapolis approved a $46.4 million operating referendum over eight years for the School Town of Speedway. Residents previously passed this referendum in 2010, and renewed it in 2016. The levy will generate up to $5.8 million annually over the next eight years to help fund teacher and administrative salaries and building maintenance. 

Before the election, Superintendent Kyle Trebly previously said the district would need to let go of roughly 31 employees if the referendum wasn’t approved. 

The average local property tax levy for Speedway homeowners will be no more than $0.59 per $100 of assessed value for eight years. 

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

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