Elkhart Community Schools holds first of four town halls on referendum

NOW: Elkhart Community Schools holds first of four town halls on referendum

BRISTOL, Ind. - People in the City of Elkhart will soon be headed back to the polls. Elkhart Community Schools called a special election for its referendum it says it needs to stay "functional and competitive." leading up to that vote, the district said it would hold four town halls to give voters a chance to learn more about the referendum and district officials a chance to learn what the public wants the money from the referendum to go to.

"Getting that yes on May 4th, not only does it give me hope for my future financially and for my colleagues and everyone who works at our schools to be compensated appropriately and that we're going to have that longevity and that stability in our schools, but it also says that Elkhart is also passionate about education," said Elkhart Community Schools teacher and parent Holly Stanfill.

Stanfill said should the referendum fail, she was most worried about her colleagues leaving because of poor morale. Elkhart Schools had a referendum on the ballot once before that failed. Stanfill said when it did, a number of her colleagues left because of poor pay and a lack of community support.

At a town hall for the referendum on Tuesday, Elkhart Schools Superintendent Steve Thalheimer said the referendum not passing would force schools to drastically change their plans in the middle of the school year.

"We would almost certainly eliminate if not greatly reduce the number of field trips," Thalheimer said. "Again, we'd have some money that would be carrying us through to December with the funds that are available yet, but once, we hit January then those funds dry up."

With a referendum comes a tax increase, but Thalheimer said Elkhart taxpayers have already been paying a portion of the tax increase this referendum would call for.

"They're already paying a portion of that because of our current transportation referendum," Thalheimer said. "So about $62 of that is currently being paid for already. So, this is just an additional ask of about 120 dollars which breaks down to about 10 dollars a month."

Stanfill said the referendum would improve Elkhart as a whole as opposed to just the school district.

"Having a stronger school system means your property values are increased," Stanfill said. "More people want to move into Elkhart. It's just a community as a whole. Really, our school system is a thermometer there."

No one at Tuesday night's town hall spoke out against the referendum. Those who did speak asked about what the district would lose if the referendum fails.

Elkhart Community Schools still has three more town halls before the referendum vote on May 4th. The next town hall is Wednesday night at Pierre Moran Middle School in Elkhart at 6:30. The third is set for Thursday, April 22nd at 6:30 p.m. at Elkhart High School East. The final town hall will be April 29th at 6:30 P.M. at Elkhart High School West. All of the town halls will also be livestreamed on Facebook.

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