Hebron schools give referendum another spin

2014-02-18T21:00:00Z 2014-02-19T07:30:05Z Hebron schools give referendum another spinPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com
February 18, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

HEBRON | Given approval earlier Tuesday by the Porter County Election Board, the Hebron School Board voted Tuesday night to put a referendum on the May 6 primary ballot.

With board member Don Fry opposed, the School Board voted 4-1 to seek a $479,315 increase in the school property tax levy through the year 2021. Based on the district's assessed value of $228 million, the increase will be 21 cents per $100 of assessed value on individual properties.

The board's financial consultant, Curt Pletcher, a partner with H. J. Umbaugh and Associates, said the levy would cost the owner of a $155,000 home $144 a year. He said $155,000 is the median price of homes in the district. 

The cost for a $100,000 home would be about $69 a year.

The district sought a $530,000 increase at the 2013 primary but lost by four votes.

Resident Ken Shelhart spoke against the new levy, saying the previous defeat was an indication people are tired of taxes. He complained that 84 students attend Hebron schools but live in another township, and their parents' property taxes don't go to the district.

"I can't go to my boss and ask for more money," Shelhart said. "If everybody pays their fair share, I will pay mine. It's not fair to go back (for another referendum) the following year. You guys have got to give us a break."

Stephanie Mathews, a parent and substitute teacher, said she is "totally for it" because classes have 30 students or more and she doesn't know what else can be cut to make ends meet.

"I don't think people know how much the government has taken away from the schools," Mathews said. "It's not their (the board's) fault. It's the Indiana government."

Superintendent George Letz said the district made cuts after the first referendum's defeat that will save the district about $413,000 this school year, but increased expenses will exceed those cuts more than $4,000. Costs will continue to increase next year as the School Board considers adding staff because of increased enrollment. Also, a new teacher contract will be negotiated.

Fry said he was thinking the district would need to increase the levy 14 or 15 cents instead of 21 and didn't see how, with the cuts already made, the district needed almost as much as last year.

The Election Board's attorney, Ethan Lowe, said the state is expected to provide an official opinion the law allows the referendum once each calendar year. There had been a question whether the district had to wait a full year to resubmit it, which would have taken it one day past the May 6 primary.

The school district now must get the levy amount approved by the state Department of Local Government Finance and submitted to the county by noon Friday.

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