MUNSTER | The School Town of Munster board unanimously approved a resolution Monday authorizing a tax increase.
The next step is placing the question on the ballot in a special election that will be held May 7, asking voters to approve a general fund referendum.
The district would like to raise taxes 19.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to generate $3 million a year for seven years. For a home valued at $244,835, the tax increase would be $253 more per year, or $21.04 per month. For a home valued at $300,000, the tax increase would be $324 more per year, or $26.99 a month.
Munster school leaders initially wanted a tax increase last year, but decided against a board vote on the issue, saying there wasn't enough community support. Over the course of many months, Superintendent Richard Sopko said he has held meetings with residents, business owners, politicians and others to explain the need for a general fund referendum.
Sopko reiterated the district is among the lowest funded in the state at $4,750 per student. He said a virtual school in Indiana — without brick and mortar — gets more money per student than Munster schools. Sopko also says the district has made numerous cuts, and any future cuts will mean fewer teachers, crowded classrooms and cuts in programs.
If the referendum is approved, Sopko pledged to set up a committee to provide "transparency" so that everyone would be aware of exactly what's going on. He said if state funding improved or the district didn't need the total amount, it would reduce the request.
Of the nine people who addressed the board Monday night, the majority favored the tax increase.
However, two parents said the district already charges extra fees to students for the "pay for play" activities.
Julie Ylo said she has spent a lot of money on school fees, the laptop program and other extras.
"I'd rather pay the extra taxes than the extra fees. I don't know if the fees will go away even if you do get the referendum," she said.