Chesterton Tribune



Duneland referendum victory: School officials 'overwhelmed'; assure change

Back To Front Page



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.

The landslide 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.

Board president 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.

Recently, Lake 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.

“I’m disappointed, 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 referendum.

Duneland Interim 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.

As for 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 we’re doing.”

“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 our community.”


Posted 5/8/2019




Search This Site:

Custom Search