WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Ind. -- Washington Township voters approved two separate tax increases Tuesday night that supporters say will improve school buildings, alleviate overcrowding, boost teacher salaries, and help retain teachers.
“I’m just really proud to live in Washington Township,” said referendum supporter Emily Kaiser Tuesday night.
The $185 million construction project referendum and a $45 million operating referendum will cost the average homeowner an additional $315 a year in property taxes.
“It’s not just a payment it’s an investment,” said Kaiser. “When you make an investment you see returns in the long run. I’m willing to make this investment for my children and my community, and that’s important.”
However, some citizens believe the district could have lived within its means and made better financial decisions.
“We’ll have to adjust our budget and figure out what we’re not going to spend our money on to pay for this,” said Chris Hirschfeld, a Washington Township resident since 1991. “So, it’s a difficult decision, especially for those on fixed income.”
Hirschfeld questioned why the district allows hundreds of students to attend who don’t live in the district.
“They’ve brought in 800 to 900 students from outside the district,” said Hirschfeld. “While we’re getting some operating funds for that we’re not getting for funds for capital. So we’re spending more money for kids that don’t live in our district.”
The district has many buildings over fifty years old, and many elementary buildings are overcrowded to the point of impacting the educational process, according to documents on the district’s website.
The district is looking to make a slew of improvements including renovating schools, upgrading fire alarms and security, replacing boilers, and creating additional learning spaces.
The construction referendum would go to fix those things - with money going towards renovations at ten buildings and the construction of a new elementary school which will help with overcrowding.
The money from the operating referendum would go towards teacher salaries and hiring new staff.
“Washington Township has done an excellent job of being fiscally responsible,” said Kaiser. “You get to the point where you can’t repair things anymore. We’re really to that point where we need major renovations and our kids, and our community deserve better.”
The average taxpayer of a $173,200 home (median home price in Washington Township) will now pay an extra $18.93 a month for the construction referendum and $7.38 a month for the operating referendum for a total of $26.31 a month.
You can find out how much you will have to pay by using the calculator provided by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.