GUEST COMMENTARY: Hanover schools voters to decide funding fate
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GUEST COMMENTARY: Hanover schools voters to decide funding fate

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My name is Jeff Sawaska. I am a lifelong Cedar Lake resident and a graduate of Hanover Central High School. I have worked in the banking industry for more than 20 years. I have worked for DeMotte State Bank for the past 18 years and I am currently the Cedar Lake branch manager. I am writing this letter to ask the residents of Cedar Lake in Hanover Township to VOTE YES: TWICE this upcoming election.

Hanover schools are at a crucial point for our schools and our children. Cedar Lake is growing rapidly. Over the past four school years, Hanover’s enrollment has increased by 319 students (a 15% increase). These numbers will continue to increase over the next several years.

Three of our four schools are currently beyond or at capacity. Two of these schools have already added trailers to their parking lots to add additional classrooms. As Cedar Lake continues to grow, we will need to provide quality schools for our children. Our enrollment will continue to increase and our schools, that are already bursting at the seams, will need our support and funding.

I believe to understand what is being asked of us, we need to understand two things. First, what does it mean to be a referendum state and second what does NET assessed value mean?

In 2009, Indiana became a referendum state. This happened when the Indiana General Assembly cut school funding from schools’ budgets. For schools to be able to add-on, build new buildings or make improvements to existing buildings, the state put the decision in the hands of school districts and their voters.

If school districts decide to take on one of these projects, they must go before voters with a referendum that needs to be passed with a majority vote. The voters decide if any of these projects will be approved and completed. We have the power to decide the quality of our schools.

If a referendum passes, they are funded by property tax increases that are determined by the NET assessed value (NAV) of your home. The NAV is determined by taking the assessed value of your home (calculated by your local assessor) and subtracting all eligible deductions (typically the homestead, mortgage and supplemental deductions; all for personal residences).

If you take a personal residence with an assessed value of $205,000; typical deductions would total about $103,900 (homestead, mortgage, and supplemental deductions); leaving this example with a NAV of $101,100. The NAV of $101,100 is the amount that you pay property taxes on. A referendum with .19 cents per $100 of assessed value would cost this home $16.01/month.

There are currently two referendums that are up for vote on June 2:

• The first referendum is a capital referendum. It is needed to build a new intermediate school for grades third through fifth. This referendum also includes improvements to our middle school and high school.

Our schools are running out of space and as Cedar Lake continues to grow, so will our school district’s enrollments. This new intermediate school will free up space in both elementary schools and the middle school, by transferring the third through fifth grade students into the new intermediate school. Our high school currently has enough space for future expansion.

If approved, this referendum will cost taxpayers approximately .19 cents per $100 of NAV. Please vote yes!

• The second referendum is an extension of the operational referendum that was passed in 2015. This referendum was used to directly help Hanover schools compensate our teachers and staff and increase staff. It also created a “rainy day” fund to protect against future challenges.

If we want to continue to attract and retain the best teachers and staff, this referendum is vital to helping make Hanover schools a destination, not a stepping-stone, for our teachers and staff.

If approved, this referendum will extend (through 2027) the .29 cents per $100 of NET assessed value that we are currently paying. Please vote yes!

Our schools play a vital role in everyone’s life. We are all impacted by having better schools. We will need to continually invest in our public schools. A better school system will directly impact our children, our community and our property values.

In 2009, the state of Indiana decided to give the power to each community to decide the quality of their schools and now we must decide what we want for our schools and our children. I want to give every student who goes through the Hanover school system the best education possible and the best opportunities available.

I will vote yes twice, and I hope you will too!

Jeff Sawaska is the vice president and Cedar Lake banking center manager, DeMotte State Bank. The opinions are the writer's.

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