INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Public Schools Board is scheduled to meet Saturday and decide whether to ask voters to approve more funding for the district's Rebuilding Stronger plan.
The operating referendum would raise $50 million per year through taxes until 2031 for a total of $400 million.
Saturday's vote will decide if the referendum makes it on the May 2023 ballot. Then, it would be up to voters on whether or not to approve the funding.
The district says if approved, effective January 1, 2024, the $0.25 rate would replace the current $0.19 local property tax levy.
The Rebuilding Stronger plan was approved in Novemberand in December, the board approved a $410 million referendum to fund several construction projects as part of its Rebuilding Stronger plan.
“Through Rebuilding Stronger, we can drastically improve the student experience for ALL students. The future of Indianapolis and the future of Indianapolis Public Schools are deeply connected," IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson said on Jan. 19.
In a statement issued Friday, the Indy Chamber said the current referenda timeline and proposal "have been insufficient to garner the Indy Chamber’s support at this time."
We urge IPS and its Board of Commissioners to delay further action on their proposal until a plan can be developed that adequately addresses business and community concerns, including the following questions:
- IPS’ academic proficiency and graduation rates have lagged far behind Marion County and state averages for years. What are the district’s specific student outcome goals, and how will implementation of the Rebuilding Stronger plan help achieve these goals? How will the community know IPS is on track?
- The majority of students who live in the IPS boundaries do not attend IPS-managed schools, including the majority of Black students and nearly half of Latino students. How does the district’s plan impact these students? Why won’t Innovation Network Schools, that are part of the IPS family of schools, receive an equal portion of per-pupil funding?
- IPS’ facilities currently have capacity for 46,000 students, while district enrollment has declined to its current population of 28,000. Will constructing three new buildings and closing six effectively right-size IPS to the appropriate facilities footprint? What facility utilization rate is IPS targeting? What feedback has IPS received from the community to affirm that the new Rebuilding Stronger zones meet existing family needs and will attract new students?
- Other revenue and efficiencies alternatives must be explored, such as utilizing remaining federal relief funding, creative facilities reuse, and accounting for surplus revenues from the existing 2018 referenda. How can these alternatives be leveraged to reduce the need for an additional property tax increase and perhaps extend the timeline for raising new revenues?
- Property values within IPS district boundaries have seen consecutive years of over 15% increases, impacting commercial investment, housing affordability for homeowners and renters, and attraction of new residents and businesses. Do the timing and amount of the planned property tax increase exacerbate economic challenges?