Ten school property tax referenda seeking additional dollars for student safety, mental health services, teacher compensation, transportation, and other essentials were at stake in the primary elections held Tuesday, May 7.
Six succeeded, and four foundered, the lowest passing percentage in any May since 2011 — which, incidentally, was also a Mayoral Primary.
Indeed, if you were to rank order each May over the past nine years by school referenda pass rate, you’d find that the bottom three are the three Mayoral Primary elections (2019, 2015, and 2011) — so if you’re planning a referendum, and you can afford the flexibility, steer clear of May 2023.
Of the six school districts that triumphed Tuesday, the smallest school district won by the largest margin. The Frontier School Corporation, located in the town of Chalmers in White County, took 89.0% of the vote on its 21-cent tax rate that will largely support employee compensation. Frontier’s margin of victory is the largest for any school referendum since November 2017 when the M.S.D. of New Durham in the town of Westville in LaPorte County won 92.1% of the vote. Both Frontier and New Durham enroll fewer than 1,000 students, demonstrating that Hoosiers feel a strong allegiance to their small school districts and are willing to pay more to keep them that way.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, in the Elkhart Community Schools, 62.6% spurned the 58-cent referendum tax rate that would have replaced the 13-cent referendum approved by 60.2% of voters in May 2014. The question had been tarred by opponents as a “341% take hike”. Elkhart is just the second district ever to win its first classroom/operations referendum but lose the followup.
Since 2008, 124 school referenda have prevailed out of 198 attempted, an overall passage rate of 62.6 percent.
Check out Indiana Education Insight for more in-depth analysis of all 10 referendum results.