Bridging the gap

Perry Township residents soon to vote on Operational Referendum


Photo by Megan Rogers

On May 3, Perry Township residents will have the opportunity to extend the Operational Referendum and “Vote Yes” for Perry Schools once again.

“My view on the referendum is that it is a necessity,” Vivian Leach, Campaign Chairman for “Vote Yes for Perry Schools” said.

This isn’t the first referendum that Perry Township has had. In 2015, the township passed two referendums, one Operational and the other Capital. The Capital Referendum provided the funds to build the four kindergarten academies as well as 26 new classrooms. And, the Operational Referendum is the same one that is attempting to receive an extension.

It helps to bridge the gap between state funding and the cost of maintaining the current services and opportunities that are offered to students.

Since 2015, when the Operational Referendum was first introduced, Perry Township has added over 2,000 more students. Having the extra funding granted by the referendum has been instrumental in maintaining educational quality while numbers increase.

The referendum also helps to bring awareness to voters about how the money they bring in is being used to help educate students, according to Leach.

According to Patrick Mapes, Superintendent of Perry Township Schools, Perry Township is the top performing urban school district on state assessments in Indiana. He credits much of this to the classes and services that the referendum has enabled the township to provide.

“It is a vital piece of our success story,” Mapes said.

If it doesn’t pass, it would mean a $19 million budget cut for the township. This in turn would lead to laying off 193 teachers, 20 assistant principals, 17 technology positions, 14 instructional and special education assistants and would also remove $1.5 million from transportation.

These changes would have large impacts on students’ school experiences. Losing teachers would lead to larger class sizes and therefore less individual attention. It would take out some assistant coaching positions, reduce extracirruclar offerings at the middle schools and would also take out the Project Lead the Way program. At the high school, it could mean a reduction in the number of art, music and PE classes offered.

Losing a large amount of funding for transportation could also alter the way that many students arrive and depart from school.

“Transportation is a really tough thing right now, even finding drivers,” Mapes said. “So you cut a million and a half dollars out of it and fuel prices are going up, you gotta make changes.”

These changes include creating a walking zone, within which buses wouldn’t be provided for students. They would either have to walk or have a family member drive them to school. IPS used a similar approach this year, and a student was hit by a vehicle.

Mapes acknowledges that this isn’t optimal, but if funding is cut, this change is necessary.

“It’s not the safest decision, but unfortunately, financially, we’ll have to do something,” he said.

Trying to extend a referendum isn’t easy. Running the campaign is expensive, and the legislative process has also created additional challenges.

On the voting ballot, voting yes will be presented as a 44% tax increase. However, this tax increase isn’t over what residents are currently paying, it’s just 44% over the baseline taxes.

“It’s kind of a deceiving question on the ballot, so trying to make certain that we’re not raising their taxes, we just asking for continued support is the biggest piece,” Mapes said.

Teachers at SHS believe that it’s vital for this bill to be passed and that without it, many valuable things would be lost.

“I think it is super important that we get it passed. You know, it provides the school with a lot of great funding and gives the kids a lot of opportunity to do different things,” Band Director Jeff Maupin said.

And, according to Piano Teacher John McBurney, the renewal is “desperately needed to continue providing the services that the school district is currently offering.”

But, beyond schools, approving the referendum will benefit the entire Perry Township community. The referendum helps to ensure that Perry Township can maintain the quality of education that they provide. This quality education helps the entire community by attracting people to move into the township, therefore bringing up property values.

“Having a strong school equals a strong community,” Mapes said. “So it’s an investment in our community at the same time making certain our students have the resources and skills that once they graduate from here, they can go into what they want to do.”