Southwest Allen County prepares for referendum renewal decision

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) — Since 1985, the Southwest Allen County School District has had some form of referendum support. As Election Day approaches, the Southwest Allen County School District is gearing up for a referendum renewal this year.

Anyone living in the district has the opportunity to vote yes or no on the proposed referendum of 15 cents per $100 of appraised real estate. Voters first approved the referendum in 2009 and renewed it in 2016. A new vote is now pending.

Currently, the tax is capped at 9 cents per $100 of appraised property value. If extended, the new referendum would remove that cap and put the tax at 15 cents. For someone with a $300,000 house, that’s $6 more per month.

According to Park Ginder, PH.D. and Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools, the new referendum would allow the district to create 26 new jobs, including 14 new teachers, two police officers, six career counselors, a social worker, and three administrative and support jobs. The current referendum supports 43 jobs in the district.

“Failure to renew would immediately result in us having to cut jobs, which would result in class sizes growing, particularly in elementary school, and in secondary school, likely having to cancel programs that are unique to our schools,” Ginder said.

Southwest Allen board member Jennifer Bennett says the referendum will give students what they need.

“We want to give them every opportunity to be successful, and that starts with our parents, through our teachers, to administration, to the principal,” said Bennett.

Any property owner residing in the school district pays the tax, whether they have students or not. Indiana Farm Bureau’s Katrina Hall says a referendum renewal will dig deeper into farmers’ pockets. Some farmers see it more as the responsibility of the state to finance education.

“A property tax referendum isn’t exactly what farmers or other landowners are particularly excited about, especially since the state pledged to cover schools’ running costs a few years ago when it raised sales taxes,” Hall said.

However, the Yes for SACS group says current funding has not kept pace with the region’s growth and development. Southwest Allen County Schools is in the bottom 5 percent of the state in terms of funding per student.

And even if you don’t have students visiting the district, school officials say the tax paid by the referendum benefits all property owners.

“Statistics show that for every dollar spent in a referendum like this, $20 comes back in home value,” Ginder said.

Ginder added that the money raised will not be used for the Homestead High School construction project, property purchases, or building repairs. He says it’s about helping people.

“Bringing, attracting and retaining teachers into our district, and then also the support services and staff that are necessary every day to have great schools,” Ginder said.

Voting day is Tuesday 8th November. More information on the renewal of the referendum can be found here. Southwest Allen County prepares for referendum renewal decision

Dais Johnston

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