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Hammond, Hobart voters support referendums
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Hammond, Hobart voters support referendums

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The School City of Hobart and the School City of Hammond both passed their referendum questions on the ballot Tuesday night.

Both school districts can now move ahead with building new schools, renovating schools and maintaining their teaching staff.

Lake County Election officials completed the count shortly before 8:30 p.m.

The School City of Hammond had better than 50 percent yes votes to both questions. Both districts were able to turn out the vote with teachers in their respective districts also encouraging voters to say yes.

The School City of Hobart passed both questions for — operating and construction — by wide margins, nearly 70 percent each.

After the vote Tuesday night, Hammond schools superintendent Walter Watkins said by email, "It's the children of Hammond who win."

The School City of Hammond, the largest school system in Northwest Indiana with 13,000-plus students, asked voters for the authority to borrow $110.6 million for the construction of a new high school and some upgrades to other buildings, along with $70 million for operational costs.

The new high school will be built behind the current Hammond High School on Calumet Avenue

Watkins has said the district has suffered a reduction in funding from the state, state-mandated tax caps, increased costs for health care and continued increases in energy and fuel costs.

Reached after the vote, Hobart schools superintendent Peggy Buffington said, "We are happy for our Brickies and thankful for the support we have been given. Quality schools are important to every community. Our solutions were tax neutral which offered a plan to keep our assets protected and be fiscally responsible. We have so much gratitude for the dedication provided for our kids. It is simply the best."

Buffington has emphasized the two referendum questions would not involve a tax rate increase. She said interest rates are relatively low at this time for construction, and the district would avoid future inflation for construction rates.

The district will raise $41.2 million for the construction referendum. The money will be used to build a new elementary school to replace Ridge View Elementary, which is 62 years old, a swimming pool at the high school and upgrades at other schools, including replacing some boilers.

The tax rate impact is neutral for this capital project. That's because taxpayers already are paying for the new high school, which has been refinanced, saving the district millions of dollars.

The operating referendum will allow the district to raise $2 million a year for six years beginning in 2020.

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.

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