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Thursday, December 8, 2022

IPS may ask voters to approve $810M in referendums to fund reorganization plan

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Indianapolis Public Schools released the final version of the district’s contentious reorganizing plan and could ask voters to approve two tax referendums totaling more than $800 million to fund it. If passed, the Rebuilding Stronger plan would include closing some schools, building new schools and reconfiguring grades at other schools.

The district introduced the final draft of the plan to the school board at its Oct. 27 meeting. The board is scheduled to vote on it Nov. 17. Find a school-by-school breakdown of the plan here.

IPS would ask voters to approve a $410 million capital referendum along with an eight-year $400 million operating property tax referendum, which would come out to about $50 million annually. IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson said the capitol referendum would go toward the cost of facility updates, including building security, and the property tax referendum would support programming expansion and staff compensation.

The proposal — which includes a few changes from the previous version of the plan surrounding school programs, transportation shifts and accommodations following feedback from IPS families — didn’t previously have a financing plan.

Johnson said the tax increase would come out to about $6 per month for most taxpayers.

Along with the referendums, Johnson said IPS has been tightening its budget since 2014 to better align the budget with its values, and “leveraging our dollars where they matter most.” This included working with local business leaders and implementing their recommendations for operational efficiency.

“We’re excited to talk to our community about this,” Johnson said to the Recorder before the board meeting, “to help make the case of why our students are deserving of the same opportunities that are afforded to other students around us in this community and to gain our community support.”

If passed, Johnson said the district would begin pursuing the referendums in May of 2023 and then begin implementing the plan in August of 2024. The 2024-25 school year would be the first year of full implementation.

However, renovations to the buildings would likely be timed over a longer period based on labor availability, supply chains and other seasonal factors, Johnson said. Although renovations could ideally start upon passage of the proposal.

School mergers will likely begin during the 2023-24 school year and begin with buildings that no longer have students in them. Shortly after, they plan to launch the new middle school, Johnson said.

However, the Rebuilding Stronger plan has faced backlash from families and school board member candidates because they feel there hasn’t been enough research on the programs the plan would expand, as well as not enough parent input.

Education group RISE Indy called for the IPS school board to delay the vote until next year.

“IPS is asking residents to approve more than $800 million in new spending,” Jasmin Shahee-Young, president and CEO of RISE Indy, said in a statement Oct. 28. “Families, students and voters need more time to consider these changes and dig into the details.”

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-924-5143 or chloegm@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.

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