Second IPS referendum approved by board, will be on November ballot

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A second IPS referendum seeking over $300 million over the next eight years has passed and now needs voter approval in November.

In June, the district’s school board voted to approve the capital referendum following a public meeting. Indianapolis Public Schools will ask taxpayers for nearly $52 million via a referendum on the November ballot.

Now, a second referendum asking for $39.4M over the next eight years will total around $315 million.

Following the passing of the first referendum, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce recommended the district make significant cuts to its operations.  They recommended $100M instead of the $315M that was passed by the board.

The chamber, which was conducting a review of the district’s operations, says the district can save up to $477 million in eight years by making reductions in areas such as central office staff and school bus operations.

According to IPS, the referendum passed would seek to:

  • Obtain a local property-tax levy of no more than $0.2806 on each $100 of assessed valuation.
  • Provide employees with more competitive salaries and wages.
  • Maintain competitive health care benefits for employees.
  •  Continue to provide excellent services for students with special needs.

According to a report by an accounting firm, the tax impact on a $75,300 home if both referendums are passed would be a hike of $4.36 monthly.

The firms broke down the rest of the potential tax hikes as follows in monthly amounts:

  • $125,000 home -$12.82
  • $150,000 home – $17.07
  • $200,000 home – $25.56
  • $500,000 home – $76.55
  • $1,000,000 home – $170.81
  • Commercial/rental property – $26.15

After the passing of tonight’s referendum,  the Indy Chamber released the following statement:

“Indianapolis Public Schools presented a $315 million operating referendum tonight, taking another step toward seeking a double-digit tax increase from IPS voters in November. The proposal exceeds the Indy Chamber’s $100 million plan to make IPS teachers and principals the best-paid in Central Indiana while balancing the district’s budget.

The Chamber released its alternative last week, based on a four-month operational analysis conducted with IPS that found more than $477 million in cost savings. These efficiencies helped fund 16% average teacher pay increases and $150,000 principal salaries, allowing IPS to attract and retain highly-qualified educators and invest in other academic priorities with long-term fiscal stability.

As the Chamber, other civic groups and business leaders weigh their options on the IPS referendum, President and CEO Michael Huber released the following statement:

“Over the last four months we’ve worked Dr. Ferebee and his team with unprecedented access and transparency to build an exciting new blueprint for IPS: Paying teachers and principals more than any other local school system, driving more resources into the classroom, and protecting taxpayers by embracing efficiency.

“We found more than a half-billion dollars in savings across IPS operations, and started with a scenario that funded higher salaries and fixed the budget deficit with no new taxes. But we listened to IPS, and scaled back or slowed down some recommendations to arrive at our proposal for a $100 million operating referendum.

“We stand behind this plan, but have kept working with Dr. Ferebee and President O’Connor on alternatives. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to resolve the differences and remain far apart.

“We’re concerned that our numbers are so divergent. We need to study the assumptions behind the $315 million request; clearly the tax impact is significant and the task of winning voter support will be challenging.

“But even close partners can disagree, and the Chamber remains committed to the success of IPS. We’re ready and willing to continue our discussions and help the district pursue opportunities for efficiency and become an employer of choice for great educators.”

IPS leaders say the recommendations from the chamber would be “devastating” for families in the district. During Tuesday’s public hearing, district officials outlined how those suggestions would play out. They said more than a dozen schools would need to close and 260 teacher positions would be eliminated.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said it is possible the operating referendum amount could change by next Tuesday after further discussion with the Indy Chamber.

“There’s still time for us to reach some common ground with the Indy Chamber of Commerce,” he said. ” If we don’t, then our number will remain at $315 million.”

Any change to the amount will be discussed at next Tuesday’s board meeting.

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