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$17 million on the line in Hamilton Southeastern referendum

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FISHERS, Ind. (May 3, 2016) -- On primary election night, Hamilton Southeastern school officials will be waiting to see what happens to the $17 million dollars in taxpayer money on the line.

If the May 3rd referendum passes, the tax levy on the ballot would renew an expiring referendum that gives about $7 million to the district and start a new one worth almost $10 million.

It’s a decision that, pass or fail, will impact almost 21,000 students.

“If it doesn’t pass, we will have dire emergencies that we’ll have to address,” Hamilton Southeaster School Board vice president Howard Stevenson says. “So it’s vitally important for us to aggressively support the referendum.”

Parent Sneha Shah led the “get out the vote” effort as the chairperson of Advance HSE, a group that’s been working to support the referendum for months because of the high stakes.

There’s a chance that we lose 100 teachers, 25 support staff, extracurricular activities, administrative positions,” Shah says. “[Those are] all jeopardized with a failed referendum.”

Some Fishers voters say they don’t want to see that happen, but can’t support the referendum in its current form.

Linda Knapp says it was a tough call for her and her husband.

She says their decision wasn’t only about the property tax increase, but concerns about how the money would be spent. She says those questions weren’t answered in time for her to vote “yes”.

“There’s so many things on it that you just have to almost read in between the lines,” Knapp says. “There’s got to be more things talked about with that before I would vote yes.”

If too many others feel the same way, Hamilton Southeastern Schools will lose all $17 million.

If it passses, they’ll be able to hire 43 new teachers and reduce class sizes. One parent, whose kids have already graduated, says improving teacher-student ratios is long overdue.

Linda Knapp emphasized that her “no” vote could’ve been a “yes” if there had been more debate and input from residents about how money from the referendum should be spent.

“We support the students,” Knapp says. “We have grandchildren going to school so there’s a lot to that. But there has to be a little more discussion to where that money is going.”

The tough decisions the school board will have to make regarding where to allocate money if the referendum passes and where to cut if it fails, will begin soon after they learn the referendum results.

To track the results on primary night, click here.