CEDAR LAKE — Hanover Community School Corp. officials are moving another step closer in their goal to return to taxpayers with a new referendum this spring.
The Hanover Board of Trustees met Thursday night in the first of two public hearings required to begin the referendum process.
The board will meet again Tuesday to hear public comment and vote on a question likely to appear on ballots in the May 2020 primary elections.
Thursday night's meeting centered on a $79 million proposal to build a new 3rd-5th grade upper elementary building and corporation resource center on property already owned by the Hanover district.
The plan would split kindergarten through second graders between the school corporation's two existing elementary schools and would return Hanover Central Middle School to its original sixth through eighth grade configuration.
Hanover administrators moved fifth graders into the middle school last school year in an attempt to help alleviate crowding in the district's Jane Ball and Lincoln elementaries.
The $79 million proposal would also include middle and high school improvements, such as expanded physical education space at the middle school, reconfigured career and technical education space at the high school, and additional performing arts space in both schools.
"There's a lot of really dynamic things happening for secondary ed in the district," said Jim Thompson with architecture firm Gibraltar Design. "When this project is done, Hanover schools and Hanover Central High School will be at the forefront, not only just up in the Region but also along with the state."
District officials immediately said they would have no alternative but to return to voters after the first referendum attempt failed.
The district of more than 2,400 students this year has seen an increase of over 500 students since the spring of 2015. MacAulay said Hanover schools has added 33 students coming out of the holiday break.
"We are growing very quickly," the superintendent said. "I'm proud to say Hanover has become a destination school district."
Mobile classroom units are going up outside the district's Lincoln Elementary and Hanover Middle School this week — a $573,000 expense district leaders say they will never recover.
After losing the May 2019 referendum by a narrow 1.56% margin, Superintendent Mary Tracy-MacAulay said she frequently heard concerns from parents that the district's $44 million ask would not go far enough to be inclusive of all Hanover facilities and long-term district needs.
Hanover administrators worked with architects and developers to create three plans for addressing growing enrollment, the result of rapid home building in the school corporation's Cedar Lake and St. John communities.
School leaders then took their proposals to the community in a Thoughtexchange survey, asking which of the three projects taxpayers living in the Hanover district would be most likely to support.
The proposal presented Thursday — the most extensive and expensive of the three — attracted the greatest most votes in the Thoughtexchange survey, MacAulay said.
Of the 527 respondents surveyed, 66.3% supported the $79 million plan which would see the district through the next 12+ years of anticipated growth, the superintendent said.
Other proposals did not include additional classroom and athletic facility upgrades, and likely would only carry the district through the next five to 11 years.
Hanover administrators are working with financial consulting firm Baker Tilly to estimate the tax impact of the $79 million project.
The district's financial team hopes to plan its heaviest bond payments after the school corporation's existing debt has dropped off for least impact to taxpayers.
The average monthly increase for a home valued at $214,200 — the median home value in the Hanover district — would be just less than $17.
Commercial and rental property valued at $100,000 would see a monthly increase of just under $16, and tax on farmland would increase by $0.25 per acre, according to the district's estimates.
A referendum tax calculator will be posted soon to the Hanover Community School Corp. website, district leaders said. Additional referendum information can be found online at hanover.k12.in.us.
The Hanover school board's next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hanover Administration Building at 9520 W. 133rd Ave.
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