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School board votes to put referendum questions on Nov. 6 ballot

The Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees met in two separate special sessions on Wednesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 20, to hold a first and second preliminary determination hearing on the proposed $68 million construction project for Huntington North High School.

Public code requires Indiana school corporations to hold two public hearings and adopt a resolution to preliminarily determine to issue bonds or enter into a lease for a project which has a total project cost in excess of a non-controlled project, explained Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner.

“These public hearings and the adoption of resolutions are the very beginning of the legal process,” he added. “The thing I want to stress is these resolutions establish a maximum financial term for the proposed project.”

Bumgardner and Superintendent Chad Daugherty went over the presentation that was given in a community forum on June 5 and June 6, reiterating the need for the project. The construction, as well as an increase in teacher salaries, will likely be on the Nov. 6 municipal election ballot in the form of two referendum questions.

The referendum questions ask:

“Shall Huntington County Community School Corporation issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance the construction of the 2020 Safety, Security, Replacement, and Restoration Project, which includes the renovation of and improvements to Huntington North High School and other related campus improvements which is estimated to cost not more than $68,480,000 and is estimated to increase the property tax rate for debt service by a maximum of thirty-three cents ($0.33) per $100 of assessed valuation?” and

“For the eight (8) calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the Huntington County Community School Corporation impose a property tax rate that does not exceed six cents ($0.06) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other taxes imposed by the school corporation for the purpose of funding academic and educationally-related programs, managing class sizes, school safety initiatives, and attracting and retaining teachers?”

The school corporation is seeking $1 million per year for the eight-year period to retain and improve teacher and classified staff salaries, as well as improve school safety and hire additional school resource of ficers.

Bumgardner said the projects reflect needs that are critical to the high school students’ academic progress.

 “We have a safety issue; we have a facility issue, and the only means we have at our disposal is to make this proposal to our board, and go through this process,” he said. “That is the only way we have enough money to raise to fix this facility.”

Despite the presentation and presence of a quorum of school board members, all of them asking for public input, only one person from the community came forward to speak at the June 19 special session.

Ryan Warner, of Bippus State Bank, asked what kinds of taxes were available to the school corporation to raise funds. Todd Samuelson, representing the CPA firm H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, said property taxes can be considered as security for the types of projects HCCSC is seeking to fund.

“A component of a local income tax, specifically that’s referred to as a property tax replacement local income tax, generates some dollars that do flow to the school corporation,” Samuelson said. “That can only be used to offset what otherwise would come from property tax to fund what goes in to the (corporation’s) Operations Fund.”

The second hearing on June 20 lasted less than 15 minutes with no one from the public coming forward to address the board. With no one asking for another presentation, board members got right to considering the project resolution.

Board members unanimously approved the adoption of the Project Resolution (Exhibit A). The Preliminary Determination Resolution (Exhibit B) was also approved unanimously. In addition, the Declaration Of Official Intent To Reimburse Expenditures (Exhibit C) and Referendum Tax Levy Resolution (Exhibit D) were also unanimously approved. The referendum will now go on the ballot in November.

Following the June 19 public hearing, Board Member Tim Allen said he had no idea the challenges the school board faces until he was elected.

“It’s a real challenge I know, and an issue we need to address,” he said. “Our kids deserve better, and our grandkids – in my case – deserve better. I think we have a responsibility as a board to find a solution, and for that reason I’ll be supporting this referendum.”

His words were echoed by board members Mathew Roth, Reed Christiansen, Brian Warpup, Matt Melcher and Kevin Yarger.

“I feel that this is more than a justifiable cause; I think this project has to be done,” Yarger said. “I’m anxious for the community to have the opportunity to decide whether they are going to support our youth and further our community.”

The four exhibits that were adopted can be viewed on the HCCSC website at go.boarddocs. com/in/hccsc/Board.nsf/Public, clicking on the June 20 Special Board Meeting, clicking on “View the Agenda” then clicking on the individual documents listed under “C. Finance.”