Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education in communities across America. Sign up for Chalkbeat Indiana’s free daily newsletter to keep up with Indianapolis Public Schools and statewide education news.
Voters on Tuesday night approved property tax increases or renewed existing referendum funds for Indianapolis Public Schools, the School Town of Speedway, and the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township.
Unofficial results for the IPS ballot question showed that roughly 59% of voters supported the $410 million measure, compared to 41% who opposed it. The largest of the three ballot measures, the IPS tax increase will fund upgrades to 23 school campuses.
Superintendent Aleesia Johnson thanked voters in a statement released shortly after the results.
“Their support of our capital referendum means IPS can Rebuild Stronger and immediately get to work on projects across more than 20 schools — from design to construction starting this year — so that every student who walks through our buildings feels valued and loved, knowing that something joyful and important happens inside those walls,” Johnson said.
Voters in the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township narrowly passed that district’s ballot measure with roughly 52% supporting it and 48% opposed, while the ballot measure from the School Town of Speedway succeeded handily, with roughly 79% in favor and 21% against.
Polls closed at 6 p.m. with a total of 78,237 voters casting ballots. That turnout represents a 45% increase over the last municipal primary election in 2019, according to the Marion County Election Board. The number of early voters also rose dramatically, increasing by 306% from the 2019 municipal primary.
Tuesday night’s election results are unofficial until the Marion County Election Board certifies them on May 15.
Indianapolis Public Schools ballot question focuses on buildings
IPS officials have stressed the need for building improvements, which vary by school and include new HVAC and plumbing systems, roof upgrades, new athletic fields, and classroom additions.
“We need to update those things so that students have a safe and welcoming place to spend their day,” Deputy Superintendent Andrew Strope previously told us.
Approval of the $410 million question will allow the school district to issue bonds that the district will pay back over 30 years, using revenue from increased taxes. IPS officials estimate that residents with a home valued at the median value of $138,500 will see an extra $3.18 per month on their property tax bill.
Roughly $66 million of the proposed $410 million will fund a two-story addition to Arlington Middle School as it transforms into a STEM school in 2024-25. The money will also establish science labs and a “makerspace” — a collaborative area for creative projects — and upgrade the school’s athletic fields.
At George Washington Carver School 87, funding will support a building addition, new art and music rooms, a larger parking area, and more green space for the play area.
And at KIPP Indy, one of the school district’s Innovation Network charter schools, funding will help fix the roof, upgrade the gym, and replace old flooring. KIPP officials estimate that replacing the floors will save roughly $30,000 annually in maintenance costs.
Warren Township proposal will fund COVID-era initiatives
Warren Township asked voters for an extra $88 million over eight years to cover the school district police department, 24 school counselors, and a few programs launched with the help of federal coronavirus relief funds that expire in 2024.
The ballot question will raise the property taxes that support the district’s operating expenses from 21 cents per $100 of assessed value to 30 cents.
The additional money will help the district pay bus drivers after the district increased the starting wage by $4 per hour last year. It will also help cover support staff pay, which the district boosted to $15 per hour using federal coronavirus relief.
“It’s just simply more expensive to run a school district in 2023 than it was in 2018,” when the last referendum was passed, Matthew Parkinson, the district’s chief financial officer, previously told us.
Speedway schools hope for third renewal of operating referendum
The School Town of Speedway sought a third renewal of its operating referendum, which Superintendent Kyle Trebley previously said will help pay for staff in the small district of roughly 1,850 students.
The approval of the ballot question maintains the current operating tax rate passed in 2016 of 59 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at email@example.com.