Elkhart County introduces referendum for community school system
ELKHART, Ind. --- The Elkhart Community school district admits, there are improvements needed in many areas. A new referendum, set to generate millions, would be used to increase pay for staff, cut out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and make safety upgrades in the transportation department.
“If we want to attract and retain the best people to work with the students of Elkhart and Bristol, we have to find a way to compensate them better,” said Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Thalheimer.
Elkhart Community Schools knows it has to pay its staff better, to compete with neighboring districts.
“And over the past 4 years, nearly 40% of our teaching staff has turned over. You cannot build a sustainable culture to do the best for kids if you have that many openings, or that many people turn over," said Dr. Thalheimer.
They are currently looking to fix the problem, by putting a referendum on the ballot next May.
“We find ourselves at a real disadvantage with other school districts around us, and being competitive in what we’re able to pay, not just teachers, but all employee groups,” said Dr. Thalheimer.
One part of the district's pitch is a new referendum. It would generate money to boost pay and lower healthcare costs for workers.
The other part is a renewal of an existing referendum, to support transportation upgrades for things like school buses.
“The district itself is one of our largest employers, that educates our children, it feeds our children, it molds the future of our children who are future business owners and employees in the area,” said the Chair of Stronger Elkhart Mathew Krueper.
If voters say yes to both, the group pushing it says it will cost an Elkhart taxpayer, with a $100,000 home, about $125 dollars more on their taxes each year.
That group thinks, the extra money is worth it.
“It’s about the entire community, it’s supporting the district to deliver on the education, that I as a parent want for my children, that business owners who are my friends want for their new employees, and that we need to evolve as a community, into the future,” said Krueper.