The Noblesville Schools Tax Increase Referendum
On May 25, 2018 the Noblesville community experienced an active shooting incident at West Middle School. As would be expected of a community like Noblesville, people came together to heal and to respond. On July 17th and 18th the The Indianapolis Star reported that Noblesville Schools announced a referendum (tax increase) for funds to improve school safety. The amount of this referendum was not made explicitly clear at that time but was revised on Wednesday, July 18th to be $6.25 million per year for eight years or a total of $50 million dollars. In conjunction with that announcement, a public forum to discuss that referendum would be held that evening, Wednesday the 18th. The $50 Million is estimated to require a doubling of the tax rate for schools component of the Indiana property tax to $0.37 per $100 of assessed value.
The speed with which this appeared, the size of the amounts, the urgency of the public discussion and the fact that the Noblesville schools’ referendum was because of school safety needs raised a red flag in my mind and a host of questions such as:
- What is the rush?
- What makes up the $50 Million?
- Is the money already provided being spent as wisely as possible?
- How are the 2016 Referendum funds being used?
In follow-up reporting and the public forum along with an informational website MillerYes.org it became apparent that the Noblesville Schools Tax Increase Referendum for School Safety is not as targeted to school safety as initial publicity implied. In fact, there are other, larger components of the request including funds for mental health and counseling services and teacher pay raises.
Whether those endeavors are worthy of increased funding or not is a valid question for the voters. What is not appropriate is to mask them behind the legitimate concern of parents, staff and tax payers as related to “school safety.”
As a response this site was born. It is NOT an anti-tax advocacy site. Its purpose is to facilitate a greater level of transparency and honesty on the part of the Noblesville Schools Administration about the Noblesville Schools Referendum (Tax Increase) for School Safety in a deeper level. Its goal was to:
- Identify the components and sizes of the actual elements included in the referendum;
- Clarify the questions that come to mind about the necessity of a tax referendum for school safety and provide better answers to those questions;
- Look at what a realistic cost for achieving those objectives might be; and,
- Investigate whether the Noblesville Schools Administration claim that they have done all they possibly can with the money they already have holds up to a “deeper dive.”
In the course of that research I had the opportunity to reach out to school board member Monica Peck. Although more people may know her as one of the “Sisters of Savings”, Monica and her husband are more importantly parents of children in Noblesville schools as well as residential and commercial property tax payers in the community. While discussing with her the issues and questions I had she volunteered to facilitate a meeting to discuss those same questions with Dr. Beth Niedermeyer, the Noblesville Schools Superintendent. That meeting took place last week.
I want to thank Dr. Niedermeyer and Monica for their time and their openness in our discussion. I believe that I was able to obtain clarification on my basic questions about transparency and honesty with respect to the Noblesville Schools Referendum (Tax Increase) for School Safety. Dr. Niedermeyer committed to provide me with the line item details behind the referendum request and those now appear on the page of this site titled “The Details.” Further she stated that there will be a number of additional open presentations (currently 14) where the community may come to hear more about the needs for the referendum as well as presumably raise questions. That current schedule appears on this site on the page “Forum Schedule.”
As was noted earlier it is not the purpose of this site to advocate for or against the referendum. It was to bring transparency and honesty to the discussion and with the support and participation of the Noblesville Schools Administration I believe we are much closer to that goal.
It is hoped that the tax payers of Noblesville will review this information and include it in their consideration of whether to support the referendum or not.