By Ann Marie Shambaugh
The Zionsville Community Schools board of trustees left no doubt at their June 8 meeting that they supported placing a referendum on the November ballot. The crux of the discussion centered around making sure they approved a tax rate small enough to appeal to voters and ensure passage.
“We cannot fail,” trustee Joe Stein said. “We cannot afford to lose in a referendum.”
Other school board members echoed Stein’s sentiments as they unanimously voted to place a school funding referendum question on the ballot that would maintain the current referendum tax rate, which is set at a maximum of 24.44 cents per $100 of net assessed value. The previous referendum – approved by voters in 2012 – is set to expire at the end of the year.
The referendum on the ballot is for a period of six years, longer than any previously approved by Zionsville voters. Superintendent Scott Robison told the school board that a six-year time period will bring stability for employees and allow the district three more legislative cycles to continue advocating for changes to the state school funding formula, the newest version of which slightly increases Zionsville’s per pupil funding but also makes it the lowest funded district in Indiana.
Robison and ZCS Chief Financial Officer Mike Shafer presented four options to the school board, which ranged from letting the referendum expire without taking action to a proposed nine cent increase in the tax rate.
Several Zionsville residents, educators, business owners and parents spoke in support of the referendum at the school board meeting. No one spoke against it.
“Everything about this town relies upon our schools being some of the best you can find, even after the cuts we’ve had to make,” said Kathy Donnar, a ZCS parent and local business owner.
If the referendum is approved, the district will be able to maintain the nearly 87 teaching positions funded through the 2012 referendum and add resources previously cut, such as elementary health and PE professionals.