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Avon voters wrestle with $9.5 million school referendum decision

AVON, Ind. (WISH) -- The May 8 primary is exactly 12 weeks away and for some it's not a political office at the center of debate but property taxes.

In Avon, the school corporation is asking for voters to approve a $9.5 million referendum.

It has been a hotly debated topic since the Avon Community School Corporation board unanimously decided last month to put it on the May ballot. Supporters say it's much-needed funds for teacher hiring and raises, but for others it's just too much money.

The Avon Community School Corporation Superintendent Margaret Hoernemann said this general fund referendum is all about instruction, not construction.

"We are not going to spend any money on buildings. We are not going to spend any money on administrators. It will allow us to maintain financial stability, which we think is important as a large school corporation," Hoernemann said. "This referendum will allow us to reduce class sizes. It will allow us to attract and retain great teachers. And it will allow us to provide additional instructional support for students who need help."

Hoernemann said class sizes are reaching about 35 students in the district's middle schools. Even some kindergarten classes cap out at 30 students. The $9.5 million measure would fund the hiring of about 100 staff members including about 50 teachers.

"The school's done everything they can to tighten the budgets, to create efficiencies  and to try to find opportunities for additional funding, so really we feel like at this point it's our responsibility for the community to come together to support the schools for the betterment of our schools and the community," Chris Tincher said.

Tincher is one of about 30 people leading the charge with the political action committee called Taxpayers for Avon Schools. He has three children in the district and describes himself as a fiscal conservative.

"I've realized, I know exactly where the money is going to go. I know exactly how it's going to be used and I know the impact that it's going to have on students and teachers, so it makes me feel more comfortable and I would gladly support the referendum," Tincher said.

But not everyone feels comfortable giving the green light to greater tax bills. Carl Blackard home-schools his school-aged child and said the school corporation is asking for too much.

"There's a lot of other reasons that go into it, but they just haven't made the case. That is a lot of money to ask of the residents," Blackard said.

The average home value within Avon Community School Corporation is assessed at about $172,617. Using that figure, the referendum would cost the average homeowner within the district $23.56 per month. That's more than $280 each year for the next eight years, if approved by voters.

"I think what they're doing is they're just swinging for the fences at this point. They just want as much as they can get on this try. It's double what they requested for in the last referendum," Blackard said.

That measure was voted down in 2011, but district leaders say for this one to fail would be devastating for the district.

"We've tried for six years to avoid this. We have done what our community asked us to do six years ago, which was to tighten our belt, to become more cost-efficient and to seek additional sources of revenue. We've really worked hard in that area, but now we've kinda run out of options," Hoernemann said.

The Avon Community School Corporation provides answers to questions asked by residents on a web link detailing the referendum.

District leaders said there are several factors to consider when looking at the district's budget. Over 70 percent of Avon is residential, so the  one percent property tax cap hits the district harder than neighboring districts like Plainfield. Also, Avon ranks 339 out of 368 public and charter schools in per student funding from the state.

School leaders hope voters will take the Trump administrations federal tax cuts and pay-it-forward to the schools by approving this referendum.

Do you live in Avon? Tell us how you plan to vote on May 8th by participating in the poll on Nina Criscuolo's Facebook page.

Community poll: How do you plan to vote on the school referendum on May 8?


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