HOBART — School officials are asking local taxpayers to pass two referendums that will raise money to build new elementary school rooms and maintain the district's current instructional spending levels.

There is a special election Nov. 7 for the School City of Hobart to request the approval of this city's voters on two public questions: the authority to borrow $41.2 million for new construction, and supplement its operational fund with property taxes.

Hobart schools Superintendent Peggy Buffington emphasized Hobart's referendums won't raise local taxes and won't be used to give pay raises.

Buffington has outlined the reasons behind the referendums and how the money will be spent in graphics and video presentations on the school's website at https://in01000440.schoolwires.net/.

The district wants to generate $2 million annually in property taxes, beginning in 2020, to maintain its operations budget for student instruction, transportation and other regular considerations, which total $42.3 million this year.

Buffington said the money requested in the operations referendum is needed to recoup upcoming losses of $2 million a year caused by the state's tax caps system that limits the maximum bill individual property owners must pay.

Buffington stated, "The $2 million operational referendum will not be used for any employee compensation or benefits. The Operational Referendum will be used to recover this loss of revenue."

She said in a video primer on the referendum that the school district previously cut $1.2 million annually in operational costs eight years ago when state support of local schools dropped, but Hobart cannot cut further, if the referendums fail, without possibly reducing athletics, performing arts or transportation services.

The School City of Hobart also wants voters' permission to raise and spend $41.2 million for construction to replace Ridge View Elementary School, which is now 62 years old, undersized for current student enrollment needs and is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A new school would be built on Wisconsin Street at the site of the former Mundell Elementary, which was demolished in 1994.

Hobart plans to move some Joan Martin Elementary School students, who live in the Mundell area, to the new building as well. The construction referendum also would support the addition of a swimming pool at Hobart High School and other larger capital expenditures at other schools, including replacing boilers.

Buffington said there will be no tax rate increase in the school's debt service, because the cost of repaying this new construction debt will be more than offset by a refinancing of older high school debt to a lower interest rate and the anticipated tax cap reduction.

The Lake County elections board reported a total of 167 people had cast early referendum ballots since Oct. 18 at all county polling places.

That includes 50 votes cast at the Hammond County Courthouse, 232 Russell St., Hammond; 111 votes at the Hobart Police Community Center, 705 E. Fourth St., Hobart; and six votes at the Lake County Government Center, 2293 N. Main St., Room A-205, Crown Point.

Election officials won't announce results for the referendums until after polls close at 6 p.m. Nov. 7.

The Crown Point School Corp. and Lake Central School Corp. won voter support for their school referendums in 2011, as did Hanover Community School Corp. in Cedar Lake and River Forest Community School Corp. in Hobart Township in 2015. 

The Lake Station Community Schools and the School Town of Munster won referendums last May.

Voters rejected Gary Community School Corp. referendums in 2015 and 2016, and rejected the School City of East Chicago's referendum in May.

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Lake County reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.