VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso Community Schools board unanimously agreed Thursday to put facilities and operations referendums on the May primary ballot.
If both referendums are approved by voters, the annual property tax increase on a median home value of $140,000 would be either $205 or $233, depending on a bond interest rate of 4 or 5 percent.
The $148 million facilities plan includes building a new elementary school south of U.S. 30; renovating seven of the eight elementary schools; building additions onto Memorial, Cooks Corners and Parkview elementary schools; and renovating the high school and building a new pool at Valparaiso High School.
Under the plan, Central Elementary would be downsized and Hayes Leonard Elementary will be closed.
The second referendum, for general fund operations, is proposed at $4.4 million per year over seven years. It would fund such items as teacher salaries, technology and mental health workers.
The operations referendum would help make up for the shortfall the school district has experienced since 2008 when the state switched the main source of school financing from property tax to sales tax.
Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said the plans will affect every building in the district and are expected to have a 20-year impact.
“We're asking for these projects because they really are needed to bring us into the future,” he said.
School Board Vice President Jim Jorgensen said the board had been working on the plans for more than two years and appreciated all the input from the community. It was time to move forward, he said.
“The key is the totality of our response,” Jorgensen said. “We even are going to be making a positive impact on children who aren't even born.”
Board member James Sarkisian echoed the sentiments.
“This is not something that we want – it's what our kids need,” he said.
About 100 people attended the meeting, and although some had questions, no one voiced opposition to the plans.
School Board President Mark Maassel urged those at the meeting to talk to their neighbors and friends about the referendums and promote the need for the projects.
“Share the positives of why this needs to move forward,” he said.