IPS referenda asking for about $725 million postponed from May election to November

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Two multi-million dollar referendums that were going to be voted on during the city’s primary election in May will now move to the November ballot.

The Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners made the decision during a regularly-scheduled board work session Monday night during which they were considering the budget.

Before the fall vote, the district says it will partner with the Indy Chamber to conduct a strategic review of all IPS business functions. It will also hold additional community forums, engage with families and meet with neighborhood groups to discuss the referenda.

“Our commitment to best serve students, teachers and employees is unwavering,” said Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “We believe that postponing the operating and capital referenda until November 2018 will allow time for a detailed operational and financial analysis, in partnership with the Indy Chamber, that will support the district’s goal of ensuring that every student has the opportunity to succeed and the power to create his or her own future. The extra time will allow even more voters to participate in important conversations about the district’s path to progress.”

The referenda in question would raise taxes in the city to bring in nearly $725 million collectively over eight years.

The original referenda were for nearly $1 billion over eight years, but the district reduced the price tag after some initial sticker shock from community members and state officials.

"We felt that we needed more clarity, more information and we needed the voters to really be able to understand the impact," said Shelley Specchio, the CEO of MIBOR Realtor Association.

Originally, MIBOR opposed the referenda, their first time taking such a stance on any central Indiana school referendum.

IPS says funds from the operating referendum would support competitive teacher compensation, close funding gaps and provide appropriate levels of service to its high proportion of students with special needs. The capital referendum would fund the MyIPS Safety, Security and Technology Project. This project would allow IPS to enhance the safety and security at all IPS-owned school facilities, address deferred maintenance needs and invest in energy efficient technology to reduce annual operating costs across the district.

Without the funds from the referenda, IPS says it could be forced to freeze teacher and employee compensation, reduce educational programs for students, reduce the quality of services for students with special needs, continue to defer building maintenance and scale back transportation services.

“There is a clear need for referenda funds, and we understand the importance of public education and community engagement throughout the process,” said Michael O’Connor, IPS Board of School Commissioners president. “Our partnership with the Indy Chamber will provide even more guidance for the best use of taxpayer dollars to support our students, teachers, employees and, ultimately, Indianapolis.”

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