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IPS reduces capital referendum amount from $200 million to about $52 million

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis Public School administrators revealed a new plan to pay for security improvements and building upgrades at schools around the district.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is recommending the district ask taxpayers for nearly $52 million. The figure indicates a significant drop from the $200 million in additional property taxes the district was going to ask for earlier this year. The administration opted to not put the capital referendum on the May ballot. Instead, they are aiming for the November ballot with the new amount.

As students finish out the last few days of school, IPS leaders are hoping to get a plan in place to better secure buildings.

"Parents should know safety is top of mind for us right now,” Ferebee said.

The district published a detailed list of how the $52 million would be spent at schools. To bring down the ask amount, they are delaying maintenance projects and changes to make all playgrounds handicap accessible.

"We are not going to ignore facility needs of our schools but right now we need to close our funding gap,” Ferebee said, adding they will address those needs in the next few years.

The projects that did make the cut are mostly safety-focused. District documents show they want to replace classroom locks in a majority of their school buildings.

"The surface will be much harder and prevent people from easily getting into classrooms or buildings," Ferebee said.

Fire sprinklers, additional outdoor lighting, emergency radios and secured windows are also in the plan.

"There’s actually, for many of the campuses, a window film that we will be applying to windows that prevents windows from easily being shattered or someone easily getting in through our windows," Ferebee said. "[This] gives us time to respond should we have an intruder on campus."

Former IPS teacher and taxpayer Charity Scott said she is glad to see the price tag on the referendum is now lower and focused on more security.

"Definitely the safety of students and staff who work in these buildings is very important so it’s definitely something we support," said Scott, who is also a part of the IPS Community Coalition.

But with numbers for the new plan discussed with parents for the first time Sunday and a vote scheduled for Wednesday, Scott said she feels not all parents have had a chance to chime in.

"The lack of communication with families and community members is kind of shocking because they do have capabilities to communicate far more in advance," Scott said.

If you want to share your thoughts on the capital referendum, there is a public hearing Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the IPS Education Center at 120 E. Walnut Street. The board is expected to vote that same night.

How much would referendum cost property owners? 

According to IPS documents, a homeowner with property valued at $123,500 would pay just under $16 a year for the capital referendum. That figure includes the standard deduction, homestead deduction and mortgage deduction. For more details, click here.