CHESTERTON | Members of the Duneland School Corp. board voted unanimously Monday to ask voters in the spring to bless the district's request for more money.
The School Board approved a resolution to put the district's funding woes in the hands of residents in the spring primary. The resolution follows two well-attended public input sessions last week.
A ballot question in May will ask voters to accept or reject an increase in their taxes by 22 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation for a maximum of seven years. The additional money would be used to offset a shortfall in the district's operating fund.
Because of bonds being paid off and coming off of district debt in coming years, the effect of tax increase actually will diminish over the seven years. For a home valued at $178,800, the tax increase will be $185 annually but will actually calculate to $160 annually through 2016, and then $84 annually through 2019, Superintendent Dirk Baer said.
"Can we afford to not have the quality of education we have? We know our programs make the difference in a kid's life, and to continue to do that means the community stepping forward," Baer said. "We're asking you to step forward and continue to help that quality."
Jim Jeselnick, owner of a home in the district and three office buildings, spoke in favor of the referendum.
"When I heard taxes might be raised, I wasn't happy about it," Jeselnick said. "But the reason I totally support the effort is I truly believe it is not a cost for our community, but it's an investment in our community. We don't just want good teachers, but we want the best teachers."
Nick Jurasevich, board vice president said, "What we're dealing with is more than a referendum. It's the future of our community. We've all seen the impact of a declining school system on a community. If the referendum is passed, the community wins, today, tomorrow, and the years to come. If it doesn't pass, the impact can be devastating."
Ralph Ayres, board member, former teacher and former state representative, choked up as he spoke in favor of the referendum.
"I grew up in this community, and I've seen the continued attack on public school funding," Ayres said. "Having taught here for 34 years, I have seen the quality of education improve consistently year after year, and I've seen the policymakers in Indianapolis and nationally say you can do more with less. The amount you put into education shows in your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors. I have faith our voters will say our children are worth it."