Westfield Washington school leaders: Nov. 8 referendum would drop tax rate
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — The Westfield Washington school district says it will look for support in the November election for an updated operating referendum.
The district’s leaders are proposing to renew their current referendum at a lower tax rate for property taxpayers within the area.
If the referendum is approved by voters, the rate would go from 20 cents to 17 cents, which they say is a 15% decrease. The funds would be used to keep the current staff, maintain class sizes, keep teachers’ salaries competitive, and add student programs.
If the referendum fails, the district would lay off staff, programs would be cut, and plans for future programs would be halted.
The election will be Nov. 8. Early voting will begin Oct. 12.
District leaders have already had one community meeting to discuss the referendum. The last two meetings will be 7 p.m. Wednesday at Westfield Middle School and 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at Westfield Intermediate School.
The district serves over 9,000 students. Its enrollment this school year increased by over 350 kids, and leaders expect that number to increase.
District leaders say its previously approved referendums have shown a continuous trend of lowering taxes by 3%. Superintendent Paul Kaiser said, “We think it’s important to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and the assets’ evaluation, which is the value of all the property in Westfield is going up and because how taxes are done that allows us to drop the rate and we will still bring in the same amount of money.”
The value of taxable property in the Westfield Washington district multiplied by the tax rate equals the amount of money going to the public schools. Kaiser said that as the value of property increases, the district can drop the tax rate and bring in the same amount of money.
Joshua Andrews, the director of communications for the Westfield Washington schools, said, as people move into the area, they can spread that tax impact amongst the higher population of taxpayers. “So, each individual person feels that less while we continue to make the same strides as a school district.”
The referendum renewal came a year earlier than expected for the school district’s leaders, who put it on the ballot.
If the referendum passes Nov. 8, it would replace the current operating referendum and last the next eight years.
“If this doesn’t pass this year, we have one more year on our current operating referendum and then we have to either let that fall off and we lose all of the money that we could get, or run another referendum in 366 days,” Andrews said. “If it were to fail this year, we would immediately have to start making cuts and changes and reducing programs because we have to plan for the unfortunate event that if it does fail now and again fails in 366 days, that’s $8 million out the door.”
Kaiser said, “We’ll still bring in the same amount of money to serve our teachers and our kids within the school corporation. The key thing to understand is that we’ve been very good about taking care of money for the school district and, if we don’t win, we’ll have to increase class size from 24 to 30, which will be devastating for our teachers.”
The programs and future programs that would be at risk in the referendum doesn’t pass include “like science and orchestra, programs for welding, landscape management, fire safety production, that we’d want to start, all of those would be put on the back burner if we lose the referendum,” Kaiser said.