The Indianapolis Public School district will delay plans to ask Marion County voters for more money until November elections in a bid to build community support.
The plan as approved in December by the school board was to seek approval for a $200 million capital bond referendum and a $525 million operating referendum to pay for teacher raises, increased transportation services, building and equipment maintenance and more.
The school district had originally planned to appear on the May primary ballot with the nearly $1 billion funding plan. It opted to wait after backlash from the community over the size. At a meeting on Monday, the Board of School Commissioners voted to move its operating and capital referenda to November’s general election.
Indianapolis Chamber chief executive officer Michael Huber told the board his organization would work with the district to evaluate its financial status and needs. The analysis, he said, could engage outside experts and will move quickly over the next four months. At the end of the evaluation, Huber said the chamber would support the findings.
“Our commitment to best serve students, teachers and employees is unwavering,” Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said in a statement. “We believe that postponing the operating and capital referenda until November 2018 will allow time for a detailed operational and financial analysis, in partnership with the Indy Chamber, that will support the district’s goal of ensuring that every student has the opportunity to succeed and the power to create his or her own future. The extra time will allow even more voters to participate in important conversations about the district’s path to progress.”
Delaying the referendum will mean cuts to services and potentially employees at the start of the 2018-19 school year, Ferebee said.
Last December, the IPS Board voted to pursue operating and capital referenda. Funds from the operating referendum would support competitive teacher compensation, close funding gaps and provide appropriate levels of service to its high proportion of students with special needs.
The capital bond referendum would fund the MyIPS Safety, Security and Technology Project. This project would allow IPS to enhance the safety and security at all IPS-owned school facilities, address deferred maintenance needs and invest in energy efficient technology to reduce annual operating costs across the district.
“There is a clear need for referenda funds, and we understand the importance of public education and community engagement throughout the process,” said Michael O’Connor, IPS Board of School Commissioners president in a statement. “Our partnership with the Indy Chamber will provide even more guidance for the best use of taxpayer dollars to support our students, teachers, employees and, ultimately, Indianapolis.”
The school district has $57 million in debt. It passed a $278 million referendum in November 2008. Moody's Investors Service rates the district's lease revenue bonds A1.