TELL CITY - With one dissenting voice, the Tell City-Troy Township School Board voted Tuesday to schedule another referendum to ask voters if they'll support construction work in what is now the district's junior-senior high school.

A proposal to make up to $10 million in improvements was defeated by 23 votes in a referendum last November. Several $2 million projects have been completed since then, and architect Scott Veazey said at a regular school-board meeting Tuesday the remainder of the work will cost just over $5.9 million.

"We're very close to being done," Schools Superintendent Ron Etienne said. "It would be nice to get it all done in one fell swoop."

Board member Larry Bryant provided a 10-year history of school-tax information that showed a steady climb in tax revenues from 2002 until 2008, then a sharp decrease for 2009.

"That $48.6 million reduction is a state change, where they removed the inventory tax off of the businesses and industries in Indiana to try to get them to stay or reinvest or move more business here," he explained. That move was understandable, he continued. "It wasn't our decision, but it did affect what happens in our community. If you fast-forward to 2010, we have lost another $5 million in assessed valuation." He referred to a May 10 guest column by Don Swaney, who wrote that his "school tax increased 23.35 percent from 2009 to 2010."

"Mine did, too," Bryant said, "but the school system is getting blamed for that full increase when we can share that with our brethren in Indianapolis ... for the changes that they've made that affect what we have to do." Fluctuating assessed valuations will affect other taxing entities in the same way, he added.

Bryant related what he called "A Tale of Two Cities," explaining that at the same time voters here defeated the 2009 attempt, Southwest Dubois County school officials proposed and voters approved a $22.5 million project, which carried more than $17 million in interest costs to raise the total to "a $39 million investment in their community."

He said he looked for differences between this and that community. He found a little more than $1 million difference in assessed valuations, and "almost a dead heat" in tax rates.

"They must have an increasing enrollment projection," he thought, but "they're projected to lose 51 children in the next four years, so that didn't work. So then I looked at their school facilities; they must really have been in a whole lot worse shape than ours. Their original high school was built in 1972. Ours was built in 1928."

"Their vocational building was built in 1987 and their elementary school at Huntingburg was built in 1998, the original gym was 1950 with a classroom addition in 1998 and one of the things they put forward in the referendum was the fact that they had not made any improvements in those 'old' '98 buildings since 1998."

Copyright 2023