VALPARAISO | By about a 2-to-1 margin, the Valparaiso Community Schools' property tax increase referendums passed in Tuesday's election.
"I'm absolutely exuberant," Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said. "Two thirds of the community has indicated to us that the next 25 years our schools will be in tip top shape. And as typical of Valpo, they've done something that will effect kids that aren't born yet because they see into the future and they know the importance of schools."
The $148 million construction referendum 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 operating 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.
Speaking at the headquarters for the referendums supporters at Main & Lincoln restaurant downtown, Frataccia said the next step is to go through training procedures with architects, financial and legal advisers about the required steps to take to get the financing in order and to begin coming up with a construction plan.
Mayor Jon Costas said the referendums victory sends a message that the city wants to invest in education and invest in the future.
"It's a resounding message," Costas said. "I believe this investment in our future will have tremendous, long-term positive economic and educational results in the future. We're very pleased."
Christopher Pupillo, of the Yes4Valpo grassroots campaign, said the victory is a culmination of seven years of work by the campaign, fighting to preserve neighborhood schools and to reinvest in its schools.
"It's been a long battle," he said. "I'm thrilled it's over and it's been successful. The really nice thing is the huge turnout and combination of community leaders coming together with the grassroots advocates and I'm hoping that can set a new tone the way we deal with education policy in Valpo."