Chesterton Tribune



Duneland School Board sets referendum for May 7

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Voters in Duneland will decide whether or not the Duneland School Corporation can continue benefiting from a supplemental property tax levy via a referendum on this year’s primary election ballot.

Voters will be asked to check yes or no on allowing the Duneland Schools to continue to impose a supplemental property tax rate not to exceed 22 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation.

The Board unanimously approved a resolution to pose that question on the day of the upcoming primary, Tuesday, May 7.

Board President Brandon Kroft said the Board has a lot of work ahead, and he looks forward to the support of the community.

Before the vote, three members of the public spoke in support of the Board’s decision to seek a renewal of the referendum that Duneland voters passed by a slim margin in 2012.

First was Bobbi Hall, who spoke on behalf of the Duneland Teacher’s Association. “I want to thank our community members, our taxpayers, for their fantastic phenomenal support through the referendum that they so graciously took upon themselves seven years ago,” said Hall.

Hall went on to say that the referendum has helped to support programs like the robotics team at Westchester Intermediate, which was recognized by the Board earlier in the evening for excellence at a recent competition. Hall also said that the teachers at Duneland have been working every day since the referendum was passed to return that investment to Duneland’s taxpayers in the form of quality education.

Next up was Anne Stark, who began with the statistic that 80 percent of Indiana public schools have sought supplemental property tax levies via referendum since drastic changes in school funding took affect a decade ago.

Stark said Duneland is lucky that its referendum passed the first time because the extra funding helps attract and retain quality teachers and provide resources for instruction and additional programming.

“The teachers of the Duneland Teacher’s Association are committed to continue working with our community to demonstrate the importance of renewing this referendum,” Stark said.

Rich Gardner, parent of a recent Duneland grad and a current student, also lent his support for the measure. Gardner said he hopes the community will support the referendum so Duneland can continue providing the same level of education it always has.

Prior to 2008, local property taxes had supported Duneland’s general fund by default. State statute regarding school funding changed that year when the Indiana General Assembly ruled that public school general funds would be funded exclusively from state tuition support on a per student basis.

When the funding formula was changed, statute also changed to allow schools to collect a supplemental property tax rate of up to 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation upon the passage of a referendum. The referendum must be renewed every seven years.

Due to a 2018 change in state law, there is no longer a general fund, and most of Duneland’s expenses are grouped into an education fund and an operations fund. The education fund is only to be used on expenses that directly impact students. Duneland’s student-facing costs are still funded only by state tuition support under that model.

The language of the referendum question leaves the Board the option to seek a lower rate, which they have briefly discussed at recent meetings. Duneland’s supplemental tax rate started at 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2013 and increased to the maximum of 22 cents the next year, where it stayed.

Duneland CFO Lynn Kwilasz provided the Chesterton Tribune with charts detailing how the referendum funds were used each year, the information from which was subsequently published in a Nov. 23 story titled, “How have the Duneland Schools referendum funds been spent?”



Posted 1/5/2019





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