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Don’t forget school questions!

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When residents in Indiana vote in next Tuesday’s primary election, they will determine opportunities for students in two area school districts.

Pike and Washington townships will hold referendums to determine if funds should be available for construction and administrative goals.

In Pike Township voters will decide to approve district plans to construct a new building for Guion Creek Middle School. The project would cost an estimated $21 million and the new school would be ready for the second semester of 2011-12 school year.

Pike Taxpayers for Better Schools, a non-profit action organization, is urging voters to vote “yes” in the referendum.

“This directly effects our children and our neighborhoods,” said Mark Bryant, co-chairman of the organization and a Pike Township parent. “Also, it will save the district more money to just construct a new Guion Creek than make the inevitable repairs needed on the current facility.”

Supporters of the project say Guion Creek’s current building is nearly 40 years old and already has problems related to its roof, pipes, foundation and heating and cooling system.

Another group of Pike residents, however, are not convinced that constructing a new school is an urgent necessity.

Opponents of the project say it is the latest wasteful effort by Pike administrators who have embarked on recent plans to replace schools that are still relatively new and have few or no problems.

“We don’t want to deny parents, teachers and children the tools to have a quality education. We just don’t buy into the notion that a quality education requires that every student be in a brand new school paid for by our tax dollars,” said Paul Ogden, a candidate for the Pike school board.

Ogden urges the administrators to make the best of existing facilities, cut the district’s debt and reduce the township’s taxes, saying that residents are already overtaxed compared to other Indianapolis school districts.

Bryant and supporters of the project, however, say residents will see little or no tax increase because a bond the district took out several years for Pike High School’s Freshman Center is about to be paid off. Therefore, the new Guion Creek can be funded at existing tax levels.

“This wont raise any new taxes,” Bryant said. “It can be looked at like trading in an old car with no warranty for a new with a warranty, and keeping the same monthly payment you had for the old car.”

In addition, Bryant added, the new school will be one of a few in the state that is geothermal and environmentally friendly. The building’s heating and cooling system will be located underground, which will provide savings of 30 to 40 percent from a school with traditional heating and cooling.

Next door

In neighboring Washington Township, voters will decided approve the transfer of funds, about $4 million from the district’s capital projects fund to its general fund.

The capital fund is used t pay for facility expenses such as maintenance and routine repairs, computers and insurance. The general fund provides resources to pay teachers and support educational programs.

Supporters of voting “yes” say the transfer of money from one fund to another is necessary because the general fund has been reduced significantly due to inflations and state budget cuts.

Members of the Referendum Campaign for Educational Excellence (RCEE) which supports the transfer, say without it the district will be forced to cut $ million from the general budget, which will lead to severe teacher layoffs, and elimination of summer school and the K-12 international Baccalaureate plan.

Washington Township Superintendent James Mervilde said taxes will not be raised be raised residents in a 2003 referendum on the district budget voted that the next referendum be tax neutral.

“Voting ‘yes’ wont raise taxes, and voting ‘no’ wont lower them,” Mervilde said. “But if we fail to act now some of our top quality education assets in this community could be in jeopardy. We can weather the storm, but we need to act now.”

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