Eric Weddle, writing for WFYI, reports that voters rejected three operating fund referendums in the state: Delphi schools in Carroll County; Brown County Schools; and Medora Schools in Jackson County. State legislators are increasingly putting their thumbs on the scales against these local school funding referendums by requiring confusing or misleading ballot language:
Education leaders and advocates had warned new language required on the ballot could give voters the wrong idea of how much property-tax they could face. Last year, a law was enacted that requires the ballot question to include the estimated average percentage of property tax increase paid to the school district if the levy is approved.
Local government finance and your property tax bill is something the average citizen doesn’t understand very well. If the supporters of the school system don’t have the resources or know-how to engage in some serious voter education prior to these votes, your average voter is just going to see “should we raise your taxes by BIG PERCENTAGE for your local schools?” As ever, my focus is on West Lafayette Schools. I believe we have to renew our referendum in the 2024 election. I suppose I can count myself lucky that my kids will have graduated by the time that funding source is as risk. But I think schools are of critical importance to the community, not just the families who currently have kids in the system. As long as the State inadequately funds our schools but allows local communities to choose to provide adequate funding to their schools, communities should take advantage of that option. It’s a shame they have to navigate State imposed procedural hurdles designed to trip them up. (I haven’t researched the language, but I assume that – just to keep our existing referendum rate in place, we’ll have to put language on the ballot that pretends the rate is not in place, insinuating that voters will see their taxes increase from present rates if the referendum is approved.)
It’s not all doom and gloom though, four communities voted “yes,” to operating referendums: Monroe County Community School Corp., MSD of Southwest Allen County, Southern Wells Community Schools, and Westfield Washington Schools.