MUNSTER | The School Town of Munster is holding two public forums as it considers seeking a General Operating Fund referendum.
The forums are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 and 5 in the Munster High School Auditorium.
An overview of the need for the referendum and general financial considerations will be presented by Superintendent Richard Sopko.
Additionally, London Witte Group LLC, will provide a third-party analysis about the referendum process and provide historical and project analysis to illustrate the school district's need for a referendum tax levy in the general fund.
School Board President John Friend will speak about the need for community members to share their views to assist the board of school trustees to determine whether to proceed.
After Friend's portion of the program, residents will be able to comment in support of or against the referendum.
If Munster voters vote in a referendum, it will mark the fifth time a local school district has gone directly to taxpayers to ask for more money. In Boone Township, despite some concern expressed by residents and business owners regarding potentially higher taxes, the School Board last week approved a general fund referendum. The referendum will be on the ballot in May.
Last May, voters in the Duneland School Corp. in Chesterton approved a $39.9 million seven-year referendum to offset a funding deficit. Voters approved a 22-cent tax increase per $100 of assessed property value for seven years to aid the district's operating fund. The measure passed with 50.95 percent of the vote — a difference of just 153 votes.
In May 2011, Crown Point residents approved a $35 million general referendum. And in November 2011, Lake Central School Corp. voters approved a $160 million construction referendum to rebuild Lake Central High School and Protsman Elementary School. It was the second time the issue was put before voters. November's victory represented years of discussion about growing enrollment, overcrowding and aging facilities.
Munster's Sopko said several months ago the district was seeking an increase of 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to raise about $3 million each year for seven years. He said that would translate to a homeowner whose house were valued at $220,000 facing an annual property tax increase of about $168.
School districts have complained annually about changes in the funding formula and cuts in kindergarten through 12th-grade education that have forced districts to lay off teachers and paraprofessionals such as teachers' aids, and eliminate programs.