District happy with referendum result

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Officials with the Southeast Dubois County School Corporation were happy the district’s referendum passed Tuesday night.

“We are ecstatic that it passed, and not by a small amount,” said Superintendent Jamie Pund said Wednesday. “It actually passed by a pretty large amount.”

Of the 3,942 Southeast voters who voted, 2,812 voted yes; that equates to 71.33% of the votes cast.

“Looking at the fact that 71% of our community passed this increase says a lot about the confidence and support of our community for our school system,” Pund said.

Matt Eckert, vice president of Southeast’s school board, said he was happy but not surprised by the support.

“I have a lot of faith in our community,” he said Wednesday. “I knew that our community would step up and support this. It’s an investment into our children’s future. So in my mind, I didn’t see how it wouldn’t pass.”

The operating tax referendum allows the school district to levy up to an additional 19 cents per $100 of assessed value each year for the next eight years, until 2028. The district can levy less than 19 cents if the full amount is not needed.

“We said it will be up to 19 cents, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to take the full 19 cents,” Eckert said. “It’s just going to be whatever we need to continue to grow.”

For the median home in Dubois County, the most the increase will be is $145.34 annually (assuming tax credits have been applied), according to information compiled by the district.

The money will be used for academic- and education-related programs, maintaining current class sizes, recruitment and retention of staff, and school safety and mental health resources.

“I think we have, arguably the best teachers in the whole county,” Eckert said. “We want to make sure that we are recognizing them and rewarding them and continuing to invest into them so that they can continue to invest in our children. Southeast has been in deficit spending for several years due to falling enrollment and changes to school funding at the state level that began in 2009. State tuition funds the education fund, which pays for expenses related to education, including teacher salaries and benefits, and is awarded on a per-student basis with additional funds given through a complexity grant that takes into account special needs such as disabilities and poverty, as well as high academic achievement at the high school level.

The district must wait to find out how much funding the district will get from the state before determining how much the district will need from the referendum’s allotment. Eckert said the board and administration will use care in making that determination, to have the least amount of impact on those who are covering the tax.

“I’m a school board member, but I’m also a taxpayer and a member of the community,” he said. “Raising property taxes is not something we take lightly, because it can put a strain on families. We’re going to try and balance the best that we possibly can to get the money we need to fund the way that we need, but still have the least amount of impact on the taxpayers that we can.”

School board members thanked the Southeast taxpayers for supporting the measure at their meeting Wednesday evening.

“I’m glad the community stepped up,” Eckert said. “I’m glad to see that, to me, the right decision was made and we can move forward in a positive way.”




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