Meeting highlights SE Dubois referendum


FERDINAND — It’s been building for years.

The declining student enrollment, the revenue shortfall, the lack of necessary resources. At a Wednesday meeting inside the Ferdinand Community Center, Jamie Pund, the superintendent of Southeast Dubois Schools, told attendees that the time to act has come.

She asked them to support a property tax referendum that at most would generate $745,000 annually for the district.

“We don’t have money to provide our teachers with what they need to best serve our kids,” Pund said to the crowd. “And that is a problem. We are not getting the tuition support that we need from the state to properly educate our kids. And that is a problem.”

Similar to the referendum that was approved in the Northeast Dubois Schools district nearly four years ago, if the vote passes and the maximum referendum amount is pursued annually, the Southeast Dubois referendum would bring in that additional $745,000 for eight years — with those funds first becoming available in May 2022.

The following question will appear on Nov. 3 ballots of residents living in Jackson, Jefferson and Ferdinand townships:

“For the eight (8) calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the Southeast Dubois County School Corporation impose a property tax rate that does not exceed nineteen cents ($0.19) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other property taxes imposed by the school corporation for the purpose of funding academic and educationally-related programs, maintaining class sizes, recruitment/retention of teachers and support staff, and school safety/mental health resources.”

During Wednesday's meeting, Pund spoke of how significant changes to Indiana’s school funding model have had a negative impact on revenue that flows to Southeast Dubois Schools during the past decade. The amount a school corporation is given per student is determined by a formula developed by state legislators, and funding is not evenly distributed among schools.

Southeast Dubois is currently the fourth-lowest funded corporation in the state — bringing in just $5,493.91 per student. For comparison, Southwest Dubois Schools receives $5,760.40 per kid and Greater Jasper Schools pulls in $5,612.12.

Wednesday’s meeting was the second this week aimed at highlighting the referendum. After Pund finished her roughly hourlong speech, she opened the floor for conversation.

Some attendees voiced support for the referendum, while others questioned its details or spoke of how it would burden them and other residents.

“For me — I’m a farmer — you’re asking me, from what I made last year, you’re asking me to give up 8.1 percent of my income for this,” one attendee said after the floor was opened for comment. “And I can’t afford it. We can’t afford it with this COVID-19. Everybody’s hurting.”

According to a frequently asked questions flyer posted on the Southeast Dubois Schools website, the median market home value in Dubois County is $167,300. Given this baseline — and assuming tax credits have been applied — the referendum would cost the median valued household $145.34 annually. This breaks down to about $12.11 a month or about $0.40 a day.

If the referendum vote were to fail, corporation staff and student programming would be reduced, and consolidation with other school corporations would be a possibility.

“As we move forward, I’m asking you to vote yes,” Pund said in her speech. “Because this is an investment. This is a huge investment. Not just for our kids, but this is an investment for our community.”

She continued: “Because we have worked way too hard to put our community on the map for the many awesome things that our kids do, to let it go away. But we make that choice.”

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