Crothersville Community School Corp. officials’ efforts to gain a majority of votes to support the operation of the school failed to gain enough yeses.
In Tuesday’s primary election, 381 Vernon Township residents voted against a referendum tax levy resolution that appeared on the ballot, while 321 voted for it.
There are 2,326 registered voters in the three precincts that represent Vernon Township, so that means 30% either voted ahead of the election or in-person Tuesday.
While Superintendent Terry Goodin would have liked to have seen the referendum pass, he said officials will continue to deliver the best education to students as they possibly can.
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He said he appreciates those who voted, whether they selected yes or no.
"It gives us more of a direction on the leadership side of what we need to do," he said.
"I think it just means that the majority of folks want to continue the path we’re on, and that’s to continue the type of education we provide," he said. "We’ll continue to follow the will of the majority of the people. The people have spoken, and we’ll follow their lead. We’ll just keep pushing on with what we’re doing."
A mailer signed by Goodin and Crothersville Classroom Teachers Association President Cassondra Kelly had been sent to registered voters ahead of the election.
It stated the state government determines how much funding each school district receives and noted in recent years that more and more funds that once went to small schools like Crothersville now go to schools in big cities.
"The only way small schools like ours can survive is to pass a referendum," the mailer states. "Save our schools by voting yes. We must invest in our students and schools to secure a future for our community."
If the referendum would have passed, Vernon Township residents would have seen a property tax rate increase of no more than 63 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for eight calendar years.
That would have been in addition to all other property taxes imposed by the school corporation for the purpose of funding academic and educationally related programs, including the attraction and retention of teachers, expanding academic programs and providing support for students with special needs.
A resolution proposed by Goodin was adopted by the board of trustees during a meeting in November 2019.
Crothersville currently is transferring 29% of the money in its education fund to the operations fund. The Indiana Department of Education, however, is moving toward not wanting schools to transfer more than 15% of the money they receive in their education fund to the operations fund, Goodin said.
In January 2018, five funds were combined into two.
The education fund is dedicated to paying for teacher salaries and benefits and some programming, and the two principals’ salaries come out of that fund. No local property tax dollars go to the fund, as it is funded by the state based on student enrollment.
The operations fund is dedicated to paying Goodin’s salary, his two staff members and around 30 other employees, including custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance personnel and some aides. It also includes expenses related to paying bills, bus costs and other costs of operating the school. The fund is based on the corporation’s assessed value.
Right now, the corporation is transferring more than $820,000 a year from the education fund to the operations fund. Goodin said the circuit breaker, which is taxes the corporation doesn’t collect, is at $16,539, but it was projected to go to $20,000 this year.
The referendum would have allowed the corporation to replace the money it has lost to get below the 15% transfer mark. Goodin said over the past eight years, the corporation has lost more than $1 million a year, but the referendum was only asking for $820,000 to replace that.
Money generated from the referendum also would have allowed the corporation to provide raises to employees. In the past couple of years, eight teachers have left the corporation.
Angela Overgaard and Rachel Fitch were among the voters selecting no on the referendum.
When she received the mailer, Overgaard said she had several feelings and opinions about it.
First, she said she learned the school would not close if the referendum was voted down, but a statement was once made stating the opposite.
"Don’t feed into this biased presentation of the issue. They haven’t told all the story," she said in a Facebook post Monday. "This is a scare tactic and 100% a pressuring technique. Terry Goodin point blank said the school will not close."
With the portion of the mailer sharing what passing the referendum would allow the corporation to do, she had several questions.
"Are we busing more students to Austin? How is the class size going down when teachers aren’t even being replaced due to low pay rates and no raises?" she asked.
"Is there an ECE (early childhood education) program set up with a qualified teacher in place? Who is creating ECE-specific programs?" she also asked. "Who is recruiting? Is this another person the school will pay for this job? How do you intend to entice and retain teachers without a decent salary? Who is developing the learning opportunities? Is there a resource position in place, yet another salary (non-teacher) to pay? Or wait, send more students to Austin for more AP classes?"
Overgaard said over the eight years of the property tax rate increase, she would have paid in excess of $4,000.
"The last time we spent $4,000, I knew exactly where it was going and what it was used for," she said.
"We must be informed and aware of our community," she said. "Crothersville is the most giving and supportive community I’ve ever seen, and this outcry is abhorrent to play in the heartstrings."
Fitch said one reason she voted no was she didn’t feel enough information was given.
"I personally send my children to a different district. (Crothersville is) not suited to handle disabled children," she said. "Granted, I know that’s the agenda, but it should have been pursued better."
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For the eight calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall Crothersville Community School Corp. impose a property tax rate that does not exceed 63 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other property taxes imposed by the school corporation for the purpose of funding academic and educationally related programs, including the attraction and retention of teachers, expanding academic programs and providing support for students with special needs?