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Voters in Lebanon schools territory face 2 ballot questions

LEBANON, Ind. (WISH) — The superintendent of one school corporation in Boone County said schools there can’t wait much longer to make needed improvements.

When voters in the Lebanon Community Schools Corp. go to the polls on Tuesday, they will be the only ones in the state to face both a capital improvement referendum and an operating referendum. The capital project referendum would replace an existing tax levy set to expire in 2023, so it would not impact residents’ taxes.

Superintendent Jon Milleman said Central Elementary School has reached the end of its service life and needs to be replaced. He said school officials want to build a new school and convert the old one to other uses.

The other three elementary schools in the district need expansion, Milleman says.

At Perry-Worth Elementary School, just off I-65, Milleman showed News 8 students eating lunch in the gym because there isn’t enough room in the cafeteria. He said this, in turn, prevents physical education classes from using the gym during lunch periods.

“I’m sure they could use it in some capacity but there would be, obviously, some concerns about student safety,” he said.

Milleman said the capital improvement levy would cover a larger cafeteria at Perry-Worth and several new classrooms. Along with smaller projects at the other schools, he said the district plans to add capacity for about 700 additional elementary school students.

The operating referendum would add about $200 to the average homeowner’s annual property taxes, using Boone County’s median home value of $245,200. Milleman said the city of Lebanon provides about half of the budget for the school corporation’s police force. City officials are discontinuing that funding, so the operating levy would make up the difference. He said this would keep at least one police officer at each building. Otherwise, he said school officials would have to cut back on police presence.

“We’ll have to begin taking a look at our school police department and determining where the reduction will be made and how we will handle having less officers,” he said.

In addition, Milleman said, he wants to add a certified science, technology, engineering and mathematics teacher at each of the four elementary schools. He said the district relies on instructional assistants to teach its STEM electives.

Besides Lebanon, the school corporations of Franklin Township and Vigo County also are asking voters to fund capital improvement tax levies.

Edinburgh Community School Corp., Griffith Public School Corp., Mt. Vernon Community School Corp.and Valparaiso Community School Corp. all will ask voters to increase their property tax levy for 8 years to cover operating expenses.

Perry Township School Corp. in Marion County has an operating tax ballot question as well but voters there will decide whether to extend an existing tax levy rather than impose a new one.