Tri-County School Corporation needs extra funding; seeking referendum

Tri-County School Corporation seeks extra funding through a referendum. WLFI/File Photo

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Tri-County School Corporation is asking voters for more funding for day-to-day operations. It is doing so through a referendum.

In 2008, the Indiana Legislature eliminated local property tax as a source of funding for the public school general fund. Instead, the state distributes funding based on enrollment.

Tri-County has taken a hit in enrollment over time – leaving a dent in its budget. Now, school officials are turning to voters in hopes of making up for lost revenue.

“We knew it was time to do something to really protect our schools,” Tri-County School Corporation Superintendent Kathy Goad said.

Since lawmakers changed the way schools receive funding, Tri-County School Corporation lost nearly $1.8 million.

Goad said they are now looking to make up for losses through a referendum.

“We’ve been looking for several years, knowing that our deficit was growing,” Goad said. “Knowing that our enrollment was decreasing, that we were going to have to do something to make a difference.”

The referendum will be held in a special election on May 2.

If it passes, it will raise $2 million annually over seven years. That money would cover a $700,000 deficit and pay for day-to-day operations.

But what does it mean for taxpayers if it passes?

“We’re not asking for any increase in the rate for taxes,” said Goad.

So how does it work?

The corporation would repurpose funds from their debt service fund into a referendum fund. While the numbers would look different on paper, taxpayers wouldn’t pay a dime more.

Goad said since 2009, there have been 148 referendums in Indiana.

“Of small schools, we are the 14th school under a thousand whose tried to support our schools in this way and we feel good,” Goad said. “Because of those 14, us being one of them, 12 of those have passed.”

If the referendum does not pass, Goad has this to say.

“We have already assured our teachers that we will not make any cuts for the 2017-2018 school year,” said Goad. “However, we would have to make some significant cuts not only in teachers but in programming for that following school year.”

Her message to the community.

“When our students leave Tri-County, they’re very successful,” Goad said. “This referendum is going to help us maintain that. But not only just maintain, we are going to continually move forward.”

There will two informational meetings open to the public. The first will be Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in the Tri-County High School Auditorium. The second will be held on April 20 at the same time and location.