Senior staff writer
Backers of two Beech Grove City Schools referendums launched their drive Saturday for yes votes in the May 5 primary election. They will meet at Hornet Park Community Center at 10 a.m. for four consecutive Saturdays to canvas registered voters.
Supporters, whose website is www.Yes4BeechGroveCitySchools.com, emphasize the need for funds to preserve bus transportation, improve heating, cooling and ventilation at four schools, enhance the Mike McMorrow Auditorium and expand classroom space for performing arts at the high school.
The frugality of administrators also is a point of emphasis, as well as the district’s recent accomplishments, including an A rating from the Indiana Department of Education. The district has seen funding for building maintenance and repairs drop more than $2 million since 2007.
“These are critical needs, not wants,” Superintendent Paul Kaiser said. “We have been very frugal through the years. It would be a travesty if we lost the two referendums.”
One calls for the renewal of the operations referendum of 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation through 2022 to fund bus transportation at present levels, improve student safety with secured entrances, cameras and resource officers and maintenance of school buildings. It would continue the 2009 referendum to fund transportation that was passed on the heels of property tax caps by the state.
The second referendum calls for financing of the HVAC systems and upgrades to the performing arts program at the high school, including the auditorium.
The construction referendum would cost 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, $2.73 per month for a home assessed at $83,200.
“If voters favor both referendums, the overall school tax rate would still be lower than in ’07,” Kaiser said. “We have been running our school district since ’08 and ’09 on $6 million yearly. We were at $9.4 million in ’07 and even with the referendum in ’09 we dropped to $6 million. If we lose both referendums, we drop to $4.6 million annually.”
According to Kaiser, the district has consistently balanced its budget, exhausted its rainy day fund and has used many grants to keep or expand programs.
“We can no longer function as a school district and ensure the students’ health and safety with the HVAC we have now,” Kaiser said.
The price tag for heating, cooling and ventilation improvements is $4 million, with upgrades to the auditorium (sound, seats, lighting), choir and drama classrooms and a new band classroom and practice area costing $2.9 million.
HVAC improvements are needed at the high and middle schools, Hornet Park Elementary and South Grove Intermediate, which is under a State Board of Health mandate to improve the air quality for students.
Passage of the operations referendum is needed to avoid a reduction in student transportation, which would result in fees for sports and extracurricular activities, and maintain teacher/staff levels and classroom size.
“We’re asking for less than $3 per month from the average property taxpayer in Beech Grove for both,” Kaiser said. “That’s the lowest-cost referendum in the state. This is a very conservative referendum to meet the safety and education needs of our students.
“The performing arts has tripled in size, and the auditorium has had too much wear and tear. We offer multiple programs for bands and choirs, and we have a full-fledged drama program. We have no space to meet the demands of the students.”
Without the referendums, the proposed improvements would be severely delayed; arts programs and electives would be cut through eighth grade; and class size would grow at all levels and teacher/staff cuts would be needed.
“We have survived on $3.4 million less; we’ve been piece-mealing for too long,” Kaiser concluded.