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Elkhart voters to weigh in on Elkhart Community Schools 2019 referendum

NOW: Elkhart voters to weigh in on Elkhart Community Schools 2019 referendum

ELKHART, Ind. -- On May 7th, voters in the City of Elkhart will check ‘yes or no’ on a property tax hike that would support Elkhart Community Schools.

ECS officials say the referendum is essential to attract and retain teachers, which is something the district hasn’t been able to do.

The district is asking for 58 cents per $100 assessed value. ECS officials say the average Elkhart home will see an increase of almost $14dollars in their monthly tax bill. 

Superintendent Steve Thalheimer says revenue from the hike would go to make pay and benefits more competitive with surrounding districts for teachers and staff. Funding would also support additional academic programming.

If passed, the 2019 referendum will absorb the levy from the safety and security referenda and transportation referenda that the community supported in 2014.

Thalheimer tells ABC57 News, if the referendum doesn’t pass, many the district would anticipate the loss of many employees this summer, in addition to instructors for the district’s early college program. The number of staff would be double what the district loses in a normal year, which is around 60 to 75 employees. As a result, class sizes would creep up.

Not everyone is in favor of the hike.

Chairman of Best for Elkhart, a political action committee, Jeff Petermann says he has been educating the community about the impact of the referendum. He’s asking voters to check ‘no’ on their primary ballots. He’s actively spreading his message on online.

Petermann says that the referendum isn’t a long term solution and it’s a result of wasteful spending.

ECS officials say the need for the referendum is not budget mismanagement. But, it is due to lack of funding for the education fund from the state as well as pay for teachers not balancing with the inflation of the economy.

On Tuesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. there will be an informational presentation at Central High School about the 2019 referendum. Superintendent Thalheimer will be answering questions.

But both sides agree, informed voting is key.

“The reason I’m voting against this referendum is that I have the research, I’ve talked the people, I’ve gotten the numbers, I’ve compared to surrounding districts, and that’s really all we’re  asking people to do,” Petermann said.

 “It’s important for people to understand that they need to be informed themselves. It’s very easy to just look at bits and pieces of information,” said Thalheimer.

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