The Duneland School
Corporation took a sweeping victory in the municipal primary yesterday, as
voters renewed its supplemental property tax referendum with 73% in favor.
4,631 voters turned
out. 3,389 voted yes, and 1,241 voted no.
yesterday stands in stark contrast with the first passage of the
supplemental tax rate in the 2012 primary election, which was only a 51% to
49% win with 151 votes from a turnout of 8,039 tipping the scale.
Those involved in
the campaign were overwhelmed by the support, and said efforts will be made
to keep the community more involved and informed about referendum spending
and return taxpayer investment in Duneland.
“I’m overwhelmed by
the support,” said Board Vice-president Kristin Kroeger. “The community
resoundingly said yes to Duneland schools.”
“This is a win not
just for the staff and children at the schools, but for the entire
community,” Kroeger added.
Kroger made a point
to say the Board has heard the community’s concerns about transparency
surrounding the use of the referendum funds, and the Board will work closely
with the administration to keep information available and easily
understandable for the public.
For one thing, the
new “Referendum” tab on the Duneland schools website is permanent and will
stay updated, according to Kroeger.
Brandon Kroft and member John Marshall thanked the community and were also
overwhelmed by the support.
Marshall had praise
for new Board member Alayna Lightfoot Pol, who won an at-large seat on the
Board after Michael Trout’s departure last November.
“There are so many
people to thank for the success of the referendum, but I think a special
thank you should go out to Alayna Pol,” Marshall said. “She was out repping
the Board at just about every event out there.”
Pol said she was
grateful the community came out to support Duneland, but at the same time,
her heart was heavy for school districts without so much success.
Ridge Schools (Gary) announced massive budget cuts and the closure of an
elementary school following the failure of its referendum in November. Last
night, Hanover Central School Corporation (Cedar Lake) and Elkhart Schools
lost their bids for referendum support.
at the state level, that we have to do this,” Pol said.
Duneland is just
one of many schools in Indiana to seek referendum support after a 2008
decision of the Indiana General Assembly greatly reduced support for school
general fund expenses by stipulating that those expenses--such as teacher
salaries--are to be funded exclusively through state support doled-out on a
per student basis. Indiana schools are still adjusting to that funding
model, where local property taxes don’t support most student-facing costs
unless voters in a given school district approve a supplemental tax rate via
Superintendent Judy Malasto said the referendum funds will likely be used in
the same fashion they’ve been used the past seven years--namely maintaining
the best possible programs for Duneland students.
transparency, Malasto said she plans to form a steering committee of
stakeholders who will weigh-in on referendum spending and what programs are
impacted by it.
Malasto also hopes
to institute an annual “state of the schools” event that will keep the
community informed about what’s going on at Duneland, similar to the
referendum information sessions the administration hosted this spring, “so
we’re not waiting seven years to remind everyone of all the great things
“To me, the most
important thing to say to the community is just ‘Thank you for the
support,’” Malasto said.
CHS History Teacher
and Chair of Negotiations for the Duneland Teacher’s Association Bob DeRuntz
was proud of and grateful for the community’s response.
DeRuntz said the
teachers at Duneland know the referendum is a investment that they will be
working hard to generate a return on for both students and the community.
“To our community,
we say thank you. To our staff, teachers, and students, we say thank you. To
our administration and our Interim Superintendent, Judy Malasto, who worked
tirelessly to bring out the best in everyone in this effort, we say thank
you,” DeRuntz said.
“Now we get back to
doing what we do best in Duneland--using your investment in us to teach,
mentor, and nurture well-rounded and engaged students who are the future of