Although this May 7 isn’t a Presidential Primary Election year, registered voters living in the Hamilton Southeastern School District have an important reason to get out to the polls in high numbers. The HSE School District is seeking voter approval for $95,000,000 necessary to increase classroom space at both Hamilton Southeastern High School and Fishers High School for 2,000 more students. The majority of these additional 2,000 students are already enrolled in the school district in the elementary, middle school, and junior high grades.

District leaders studied various solutions and gathered feedback from the community, parents, students, and educators. These combined factors resulted in a proposed plan that would elevate the need for up to 84 portable classroom trailers as the younger students move through the lower grades and enter high school. Rather than build a third high school in the HSE District, the proposed plan asks for $95,000,000 to expand the two current high school campuses as a cost savings measure. According to the district, this proposal would save $30,000,000 off the cost of building a third high school and save another $750,000 each year in operating costs by avoiding duplicate administration, extra-curricular facilities, and activities.

Unlike previous referendum questions, this question is much simpler to understand. Following is a sample of the question as it will appear on the ballot: Local Public Question: “Shall Hamilton Southeastern Schools issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance the expansion and related improvements of Fishers High School and HSE High School, which are estimated to cost not more than $95,000,000 and are estimated to increase the property tax rate for debt service by a maximum of $0.1353 per $100 of assessed value?”

The property tax impact for voters has added a complexity to this referendum due to the confusing State of Indiana property tax structure. Although all residents of the HSE School District who pay property taxes will contribute to the proposed additions, only homeowners who own property at or above the property tax cap will see an increase in tax bills. Because the district will be paying off old debt, those owners below the tax cap could see a decrease in property taxes. If the referendum passes, those same owners experiencing a tax decrease may return to current tax amounts due to the new debt replacing the old debt, essentially experiencing little or no change to their tax bills.

The district attempts to simplify the resulting property tax impact by offering homeowners the following examples for homes assessed at three levels. A home assessed at $195,000 would have no increase, a $230,000 home would come with a $12-per-month increase, and a $370,000 home would come with a $23-per-month increase. However, the exact impact will vary based on the assessed value of a home, the tax district where the property is located, and whether or not it is valued under the property tax cap.

If passed, the referendum will allow the Hamilton Southeastern School District to build the space necessary to house 1,000 additional students at each high school. Therefore, HSE and Fishers High Schools could avoid the need for 84 new portable classroom trailers. This additional space will provide the district an opportunity to have space that will support the shift in instruction to include more 21st century learning. While the new space will not cost any more money than traditional classroom space, it will solve the space issue of growing enrollment and offer senior academies at each location. All seniors will utilize this new instructional space in addition to classes and activities in other parts of the buildings. Underclassmen will also have opportunities to take classes in the academy and use the new facilities. The plan also includes the expansion of other areas to accommodate the increased volume by expanding fine arts, performing arts, and physical education areas.

Additional information regarding the high school additions and referendum information can be found on the district website at www.hse.k12.in.us or call the administration office at 317-594-4100.  Voting and elections information can be found on the Hamilton County Government website at http://www.hamiltoncountry.in.gov.

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