Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) has additional time to persuade the public to support its tax referendum plan.
On Monday, The IPS Board of School Commissioners voted to delay asking Hoosiers for $725 million in property taxes over the course of eight years by moving its $525.7 million operating referendum and $200 million capital referendum from May’s primary election to November’s general election.
Additionally, between now and November, the Indy Chamber will study the district’s financial situation and report their findings to the community.
“We believe that postponing the operating and capital referenda until November 2018 will allow time for a detailed operational and financial analysis, in partnership with the Indy Chamber, that will support the district’s goal of ensuring that every student has the opportunity to succeed and the power to create his or her own future,” said IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee in a statement. “The extra time will allow more voters to participate in important conversations about the district’s path to progress.”
Ahmed Young, chief of staff with IPS, says funding is desperately needed to keep IPS up to par with neighboring districts. Without additional funding, he fears the district will be forced to reduce educational programs for students, reduce the quality of services for students with special needs, defer building maintenance and scale back transportation services. The majority of the funding will go towards teacher compensation.
“For a long period of time, we have done well with compensating new teachers but we lose highly qualified and impactful teachers as they become more seasoned,” said Young. “We are making sure we are able to compete with the surrounding school districts by financially investing in our people.”
Under this new plan, $48.7 million will go towards teacher salaries annually. Additional funding will support building and equipment maintenance, transportation and supplies. According to IPS, a property valued at $200,000 will pay out an additional $712.02 annually.
Many Indianapolis residents are concerned that higher property taxes would put families that are struggling to make ends meet in a bind and feel IPS has not shared enough specific information regarding how the funding will be distributed.
Indianapolis resident Dountonia Batts is a proud supporter of public education. She and her son are both Arsenal Technical High School alumni, and she wants nothing more than to watch the district she loves succeed. On the other hand, she owns property in Indianapolis and shares concerns about how tax increases may impact families in the district. Her parents, she explains, are senior citizens on a fixed income. She worries they will be taxed out of their home.
“It’s unfortunate that many residents within the IPS district are being taxed everywhere we turn, but we need quality schools, so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.” said Batts. “Many in the community, especially me as a citizen, have unanswered questions. We don’t have enough information to make an informed decision, which is what I want to do. It’s difficult to weigh the costs and the benefits because we will pay for it either way.”
Batts is concerned that expenses are rising despite the districts move to rightsize. She hopes her concerns will be addressed before November’s general election.
Young says IPS is excited about having additional time to address cost-related concerns.
“What’s the cost of a high school dropout — what’s the impact on that family and that community?” asked Young. “(IPS) has additional time to sit down with teachers, parents, community leaders and people at the grassroots level, sitting in kitchens and living rooms and having these conversations. We are extremely excited to plan accordingly to make sure folks from the far east side to the south side and the west side have a better understanding of what is taking place.”
Indy Chamber will conduct a strategic review of all IPS business functions during the next 120 days. Findings will be made available at www.indychamber.com/advocacy.