WAYNE TOWNSHIP — In less than a week voters will head to the polls. Not only will voters be choosing mayoral and council candidates on election day Tuesday, May 7, but three central Indiana school districts are asking voters to approve referendum.
One of those school districts is Wayne Township, where leaders hope to use the money for three different reasons: improving school safety and security, and retaining quality teachers.
"We love the diversity of the community and the support of our community," Jennifer Whitt, a long-time Wayne Township resident, said.
Whitt was raised in Wayne Township. She also has two children with her husband, Jordan Whitt, and one already attends elementary school in the district.
"We have wonderful teachers, and it's a wonderful community to be a part of," Jennifer said.
However, the Whitt's are reminded every day of the district's current need when it comes to funding. Mainly due to the fact they live directly across the street from Ben Davis High School.
"If we aren't responsible to our education system, how can I get out and look out every morning at the high school and feel confident and comfortable knowing I didn't do what I could do to support the school system?" Jordan asked.
If approved, the property tax referendum that will appear on the May 7 ballot will generate an additional $10 million per year for the next eight years for the school district.
"It's 35-cents per $100 of assessed valuation to continue to support the services we provide our children now," Dr, Jeff Butts, Wayne Township Superintendent, said. "To improve school safety and security and to attract and retain high-quality teachers."
"We need a strong educational system, so we really feel that our school system is being fiscally responsible and we need to support them," Jennifer said.
Some people who live in Wayne Township do not want to see this referendum pass. They say they're already paying more money right now in property taxes because of a current referendum that's in place.
"When will it end?" Denise Bohannon asked. "I think there should be one referendum at a time paid for and when that one expires, ask for another one."
Bohannon's son graduated from Ben Davis. She's now retired but has lived in the district most of her life. The referendum that passed in 2015 still has four more years. It will run concurrently with the new one if approved.
"They are going to have to either budget their money more or cut costs. I am a senior - I only have one income," Bohannon said.
"We are currently - because of state funding - we are losing revenue over the last seven years," Dr. Butts said. "Our property values have gone down over the past years, although we did see an increase this year and so those combined got us to a place where we've needed to ask our community for additional support."
If your home's assessed value is $100,000, you will see a $115 annual increase or $9.58 per month.
If the referendum does not pass, cuts will be made. Programs that could be impacted will include Ben Davis University, Wayne Township Preschool and teachers positions.
"That's what 87% of our budget goes towards is the people that are helping our children to be successful. Our children get one opportunity for their education," Dr. Butts said. "We are proud to offer a high-quality education here in Wayne Township, and we are just asking for the community support to continue that."
Voters will have the final say on May 7.
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