Chesterton Tribune



Guest Commentary: Why the referendum is a vital choice for Duneland success

Back To Front Page


Guest Commentary

By Bob DeRuntz

History Teacher

Chesterton High School

I have taught at Chesterton High School for 25 years, so I was not surprised to see that Chesterton was ranked the #1 community in Indiana to raise a family. Every day, I see our dedicated staff, teachers and Administration strive to provide an outstanding education for our children. The Duneland Schools are an essential part of our success because strong schools promote our community, protect our property values and produce great citizens who will work, contribute, invest and lead our community for years to come. We have worked hard to provide a return on the investment you have made in our community through the referendum.

Duneland is not alone in our need for a referendum. Over the last decade, inadequate State funding has forced 84 percent of public schools in Indiana to ask their communities to support them through a referendum. While funding for public schools in Indiana has stagnated over the last decade, hundreds of millions of dollars has been diverted from public education to voucher programs and charter schools. This has placed substantial financial stress on Indiana’s public schools. Many regional communities, such as, Valparaiso, Munster, Hebron, Crown Point, Hammond, Hobart, and Lake Central have passed a referendum to support their schools. Some communities, such as Michigan City, have failed to pass their referendum, leaving their schools with severe financial challenges to support the staffing, resources and programs needed for their students.

In speaking with Duneland residents, I have found that many are not sure what the referendum means to their personal bottom line. Our budgets are tight, and every dollar counts, so what does supporting the referendum cost? What exactly is that 22 cents? In 2012, Duneland voters passed the referendum that resulted in an annual tax collection of up to 22 cents per $100 of assessed value on property. The median home value in Duneland is currently $183,500. For this median home value, with the homestead and mortgage exemptions applied, the 22 cents collection results in $15.96 per month of referendum support for our schools. The Duneland School Corporation website has a Referendum tab that includes a Tax Calculator link. When you enter your property’s assessed valuation, the calculator will indicate exactly what the impact of the referendum is on your property taxes. The rate shown on the calculator is what you are currently paying in referendum support for our schools and would continue to pay with a “YES” vote for the continuation of the referendum. Collectively, the referendum provides the Duneland Schools with roughly $6 million of annual funding that is essential for the operations, programs, teachers, resources, counselors, courses, nurses and educational opportunities that cultivate and maintain Duneland excellence.

When our voters originally passed our referendum, in 2012, it saved the Duneland School Corporation from a financial crisis that would have gutted the programs, opportunities and staffing that we provide for our students. Over the last seven years, our community’s investment in our schools, through the referendum, has sustained Duneland as one of the finest public school Corporations in the State. I have had the great fortune to teach my entire career at Chesterton High School. I am only one of 318 teachers in the Duneland School Corporation, but I have a unique perspective on how the referendum has benefited our schools because I also serve as the Chairman of Negotiations for the Duneland Teachers Association. In that role, I have come to better understand the complexity of school funding, how Duneland invests our funding and how dire the situation in Duneland would be without our community’s referendum support. For example, four years ago the starting salary for a beginning teacher in Duneland was $32,428, woefully behind most of our neighboring school districts. Over the last four years, referendum funding has enabled Duneland to increase our beginning teacher salary to $40,000, which is much more comparable to our regional counterparts. Competitive teacher salaries are vital to our ability to attract and retain quality teachers, especially as the teacher shortage in Indiana grows worse every year. Additionally, your investment in the referendum has enabled Duneland to afford the educational opportunities, staffing and innovations necessary to sustain Duneland excellence in our Building and Trades program, art, music, science, technology, robotics, Dual Credit, Advanced Placement, the International Baccalaureate diploma and more.

I hope that when considering your vote, you agree that the cost of supporting our children’s educational opportunities through the continuation of the referendum is worth far more to our community than the adverse price our kids, schools and community would pay with the ramifications of non-renewal. I hope that you see the bottom line of the continuation of the referendum as an affordable and collective investment in our community that provides the resources vital for Duneland success. Please vote “YES” for the continuation of the referendum so we can protect and sustain what we have worked so hard to build together.



Posted 3/15/2019




Search This Site:

Custom Search