Chesterton Tribune

Chamber urges 'yes' vote on school referendum

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The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted unanimously to adopt a resolution in support of the referendum on the May 8 ballot seeking a new property tax to shore up the Duneland School Corporation’s General Fund.

Sixteen of the eighteen board members were present for the vote on Thursday morning and all of them were in agreement. “This is too big of an issue for us to remain neutral,” the Chamber said in a statement released today. “Many of the members are business owners themselves and are not overly excited to pay more in taxes but understand the risks to the local economy without a thriving school system.”

The Duneland School Corporation has “consistently been ranked among the best schools in the State of Indiana, combining educational high-achievement and fiscal efficiency in a manner that has led the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to select it as a ‘Best Buy School,’” the Chamber noted.

“A strong well-regarded school system helps attract and retain businesses to the Duneland area and provides the foundation for a well-educated and trained workforce,” the Chamber said. “Also, property values and the overall economic viability of the Duneland community are directly impacted by the strength of the Duneland School Corporation.”

“Furthermore,” the Chamber added, “changes in the funding formula by the Indiana General Assembly have resulted in a growing disparity in the funding of school corporations putting the Duneland School Corporation 23rd from the bottom of all school corporations in per pupil funding. Having already engaged in severe reductions and cost-cutting the Duneland School Corporation has eliminated more than 30 teaching, administrative, and non-teaching positions since 2010. Additional staff reductions and the elimination of extracurricular programming will be necessary unless new revenue is generated.”

“The Board of Directors also felt it was equally important to resolve to urge the Indiana State Legislature to address school funding in a meaningful way and reduce the increasing disparity between schools,” the Chamber said.

The referendum is specifically asking voters to approve a new property tax of 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. If the referendum is approved, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would pay—after the standard deductions—a total tax in a given year of $72.05, around $6 per month.

Superintendent Dirk Baer has said that, should the referendum fail, the Duneland School Board would be forced largely to eliminate in-school aides; reduce secretarial staff by 20 percent; cut a minimum of 20 teaching positions; increase class sizes by a minimum of 10 percent; and slash by something like one-third the $750,000 currently spent annually on high-visibility extracurricular programming, like sports, music, speech and debate.



Posted 4/20/2012