Monday, May 5, 2014

Truth Urges Taxpayers to Vote Yes on Concord and Elkhart Referenda

From the Elkhart Truth:


Vote no twice!

Yes for Concord Kids!

Vote no in Concord!

The battle lines formed long ago. Now it’s time to vote.

Approve the Elkhart Community Schools referenda for transportation and capital projects. In the Concord school district, approve the referendum for general operations.

Property tax caps and the Great Recession combined to strangle funding for Elkhart and Concord schools. Elkhart Community Schools lost $16.6 million between 2008 and 2013, with an additional $6 million loss anticipated this year. Concord lost $10 million over the same period, with another $4.2 million loss expected in 2014.

Deft management by both districts kept the cuts from affecting student performance, but you can only defer spending on transportation, staffing, technology and infrastructure for so long. We’ve reached the point where we either replace the money we lost or we watch as our schools begin to implode — and with them, Elkhart.

State law allows school districts to ask voters for additional funding. Elkhart put two initiatives on Tuesday’s ballot. One, spread over seven years, funds transportation and operations. The other spans 19 years and addresses building security maintenance. Combined, they’ll raise up to $47 million for ECS.

And the impact on your tax bill? Slightly more than 18 cents for every $100 in assessed valuation.

Concord, which overlaps with Goshen and Elkhart, faces an even stiffer challenge. So, justifiably, it takes a more aggressive approach toward funding.

Out of 292 public school districts in the state, the Legislative Services Agency ranks Concord eighth in percentage of lost local revenue. CCS cannot afford to slowly restore spending over two decades. It seeks $28 million over seven years.

For a property owner, that works out to 40 cents per $100 in valuation.

Opponents make the same arguments against both districts. They claim there’s waste, extravagant spending and bloated administrations.

There isn’t.

They warn that the taxes will become permanent, like the wheel tax.

They can’t — they’re limited to seven years in Concord, seven and 19 years in Elkhart.
They claim people can’t find the money. Especially people on fixed incomes.

Whether on fixed incomes or not, homeowners started enjoying significant tax savings in 2008. Many will come out ahead even if the referenda pass.

Opponents also need to remember that although Elkhart sewer rates increased in 2013 and 2014, rate hikes to cover the cost of a massive improvement project end in 2015. And, at about roughly the same time, a number of bond payments in both Elkhart and Concord begin falling off the books.

That mitigates local property tax bills.

Every generation of Americans invests in the education of those who follow. Even if our own children or grandchildren do not attend public schools, we willingly pay to ensure that all students, regardless of class, color or religion, can obtain the instruction they need to become productive members of society.