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Lanesville to outline referendum proposal

Public input sought regarding 17-cent rate
Lanesville to outline referendum proposal Lanesville to outline referendum proposal
J.C. Lyell, Staff Writer, [email protected]

Franklin Township voters will likely have a referendum on their primary election ballots in May. The vote will decide whether or not Lanesville Community School Corp. will continue to include a 17-cent (per $100 of assessed property value) referendum tax rate in the corporation’s annual budget submissions to the state for the next seven years.

The corporation’s board of trustees will have a hearing after its Dec. 17 meeting to solicit feedback from the community about the referendum. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Lanesville cafeteria.

A prior referendum established the 17-cent rate when it passed in 2014. That vote stipulated that the rate would stand for seven years, which means it will expire after 2021’s property tax rates are set.

The 2020 referendum, if passed, will overwrite the last year of the prior referendum’s effect and expire after 2027’s property tax rates are determined.

The referendum is one of three school corporation budget categories considered by the Indiana Dept. of Local Government and Finance in determining tax rates for properties in each school district. The other categories considered are operations and debt services. (The fourth budget category, education, is used to determine a corporation’s state funding.)

The figure means that a maximum of 17 cents can be factored into the rate in addition to the amounts the department sets for the other two categories.

The actual amounts for each category are determined by the DLGF based on the budget submission for each year. While the rates for 2020 have not yet been determined, Lanesville’s 69-cent rate for 2019 was comprised of 14.24 cents for the referendum, 10.59 cents for debt services and 44.17 cents for operations.

Much of Lanesville Community schools’ local funding is generated by the tax, though Harrison County public school corporations also receive some funding from riverboat revenues.

For 2019, Lanesville’s total school property tax rate, including the increase from the referendum, is the 21st-lowest in the state out of 289 public school corporations. Only South Harrison, West Washington and Salem have lower rates out of public school corporations in Harrison and its neighboring counties.

The estimated net assessed value for all properties in the Lanesville Community School Corp. tax base (Franklin Township) is $191,121,531 for 2019. The 17-cent increase means that this year the corporation can collect approximately $324,910 in addition to revenues from the other categories set by the DLGF.

Jeff Hammond, manager at Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors, a public accounting and consulting firm working with the corporation, told Lanesville’s school trustees at their last meeting, on Nov. 19, that the net assessed value of property in Franklin Township has seen a steady increase in recent years.

“The net assessed value of the corporation has really trended upwards, and that’s a great thing,” he said.

Hammond said the trend for many corporations lately, especially in rural areas, has been for that figure to decrease.

This means even if the tax rate remains the same, the corporation will likely see an increase in local tax revenue. Because of this, board members opted not to ask for an increase in the referendum, but rather to maintain the rate that was passed in 2014.

Steve Morris, superintendent of the LCSC, said the 2014 referendum has led to several improvements at the corporation that wouldn’t have been possible without the extra funding, including the hiring of a couple elementary school teachers to help reduce class sizes.

“We also probably wouldn’t have added a full-time elementary counselor (if the referendum hadn’t passed),” he said.

Morris said a portion of Lanesville’s school resource officer pay is covered by the revenue, and the funds have also led to the hiring of a digital learning coach, who works with teachers to help integrate technology into curriculums.

“(The referendum rate) gives us the ability to keep in place what we’ve got, especially as enrollment fluctuates,” he said. “I’m appreciative to what the Franklin Township voters did in 2014, and we’re hoping they’ll continue to show support.”

The referendum will be placed on the May ballot, rather than November, so the corporation will know its results when drafting the 2021 budget, which must be turned into the state in October.

For the Dec. 17 hearing, board members said they are looking for direct feedback from community members.

“We want to invite everyone in, including the ones who’ve had concerns about the referendum to hear their input about it,” school board president Robert (Bob) Schickel said.

Illustration by Christy Yost