Your gift to the Friends of West Lafayette Schools will assist us with getting information out to our school district patrons so each of them can make an informed choice about the referendum question.
A school corporation may conduct a referendum to create a property tax levy for purposes of supplementing the revenue it receives from the state funding formula. The West Lafayette Community School Corporation (WLCSC) Board of Trustees passed a resolution that states that the proposed referendum would be used to supplement existing revenues received from the state of Indiana for the purpose of funding academic and educationally related programs, to manage class sizes and to retain teachers.
An operating referendum creates an additional levy that goes into a special fund titled "referendum fund" for a period not to exceed seven years. However, a referendum tax rate may be re-imposed or extended under the law if approved by the voters of the district. WLCSC voters approved a referendum in 2010. In May 2017, WLCSC will be voting to extend the referendum by another seven years.
The revenue is collected by the county through the property tax bills of property taxpayers in the school district. The money does not pass through the state, but goes directly to the school for the purposes of supplementing the general fund of the school corporation. The general fund pays for faculty and staff.
The referendum is only on the ballot of voters registered to vote in the WLCSC district. Registered voters living in the West Lafayette city boundary, but outside of the WLCSC district will not be voting on the referendum. A referendum tax levy will take effect only if a majority of the voters vote "Yes" to the ballot question. If it passes, the referendum levy goes into effect the following calendar year. The referendum question will appear on the May ballot in a special election.
The referendum ballot language is established by Indiana law, approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance and reads:
“For the seven (7) calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the West Lafayette Community School Corporation continue to impose a property tax rate that does not exceed thirty-seven cents ($0.37) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation for the purpose of funding academic and educationally related programs, to manage class sizes and to retain teachers? The tax rate requested in this referendum was originally approved by the voters in the West Lafayette Community School Corporation in 2010.”
Only those who pay property tax in the WLCSC district will pay the referendum tax. Commercial rental property owners may choose to pass the tax on to their tenants. Senior citizens, homeowners, mortgage holders and some other types of taxpayers receive exemptions that lower their assessed value and lessen the impact of the tax rate compared to others. By law, the rate is applied to the net assessed value of the property after these deductions. The law does not allow certain classes of taxpayers to be exempt from the rate. For instance, charging only property taxpayers with children in the schools would be considered tuition and against the law established by the Indiana Constitution that says education is tuition free and available to all.
The West Lafayette Community School Corporation (WLCSC) voluntarily established a Citizen Finance Committee after the 2010 referendum made up of property taxpayers and business owners from within the school district. This committee meets annually to review the coming year's budget and make a recommendation on the amount of the referendum rate to put in place. The rate approved by the voters is a maximum rate and this committee after reviewing the budget can make recommendations to the school board to set a lower rate. During the seven years of the referendum, if the Indiana Legislature voted to significantly change the funding formula or make other types of school funding changes this committee could even recommend that rate be eliminated. See the next question for more information about this committee.
In 2010 the voters approved a maximum rate of forty-three cents ($0.43) per one hundred dollars ($100) of net assessed value. The 2017 renewal referendum is requesting a lower maximum rate of thirty-seven cents ($0.37) per one-hundred dollars ($100) of net assessed value.
The WLCSC Board of Trustees fulfilled a promise made in 2010 to establish a Citizen Finance Committee after the election that would recommend only the portion of the maximum rate needed to supplement the state revenue received. The WLCSC Board of Trustees, with the recommendation of the committee has never used the full maximum rate. The rate of $0.37 per $100 is the current rate being paid by taxpayers in the WLCSC district.
By setting the renewal rate at this lower rate, property taxpayers in the WLCSC are assured that the 2017 renewal rate will not exceed the tax rate they are paying now. Projections by financial experts indicate this new lower rate will be able to provide the necessary supplemental revenue to maintain the tradition of academic excellence this community expects.
If a majority of the voters voting on the operating referendum vote in opposition, WLCSC will not have the funding necessary for West Lafayette schools to retain teachers, and to keep and enhance music, art, and extra‐curricular programs. Another public question on the same or substantially similar referendum may not be submitted to the voters earlier than one year after the date of the election. There is legislation pending in this session of the Indiana General Assembly that would extend the date to two years without a petition of voters to allow it in one year. The earliest the referendum could be presented would be the May 2018 election. WLCSC would not be able to receive the critical referendum funding beginning in January 2018.
Student extracurricular activities provide our most significant benefit return for minimal financial investment. For stipends costing less than a couple pennies for every dollar of revenue, students learn essential life skills universal to all careers. Since WLCSC is among the lowest funded in the state (with many corporations receiving $5 million more yearly across the same number of students) we already rely on fundraisers, corporate sponsors, donations, participation fees, volunteers and gate receipts.
Research is clear; student extra-curricular activities from our widely regarded Debate Team to our Cross Country champion runners are linked to higher grade point averages for our students. While our school board, faculty and staff are committed to providing a well rounded education, continued review of additional revenue and volunteer opportunities to cover this one-percent of the budget will be another part of the expense control required. Additional revenue ideas and fundraising opportunities will continue to be explored. If the referendum is renewed, cutting these programs will not be necessary.
When cutbacks occur in staffing due to funding shortfalls, the term RIF is used. This refers to Reduction-in-Force which is based on seniority and certification. Certification is making sure teachers are certified to teach the classes and programs that will be offered the next year. For instance, if the music programs were going to be reduced, a music teacher who is not certified to teach other subjects might be more at risk of being cut. Generally, less senior teachers are reduced before a more senior teacher. Exceptions to this may be made because of certification.
Reductions are based on the budget, enrollment, the schedule of classes, and rules from the Indiana Department of Education. The number of staff reductions can be potentially reduced by retirements. Teachers who are eligible for retirement have already received their early retirement compensation as the result of a previous retirement buyout.
If the referendum is renewed no reductions in work force will be necessary. If the referendum fails, reductions in force will result in larger class sizes which, in turn make it more difficult for students to receive the individual attention they need.
Parents/guardians of returning students are required to sign an affidavit verifying that the residence information listed on the affidavit is correct and has not changed since the previous school year. For a new student or for a student that has had a change of residence, the following documents are required: current mortgage statement or lease agreement and one additional document with the current address on it – paycheck stub; current utility bill; current bank statement; vehicle registration; or explanation of benefits from health care provider.
Until 2015, out of district students could request to attend West Lafayette Community Schools provided certain criteria had been met. Because of enrollment growth, beginning in 2015, no new transfer requests have been accepted except for staff members. Currently WLCSC employees that reside outside of the attendance area can request to have their children attend a West Lafayette School.
Because of enrollment growth, the number of transfer students approved have decreased nearly 50% over the past five years. Over 300 requests have been turned down in the last two years because of a sharp increase in student enrollment . Current transfer students have been allowed to continue attending WLCSC so long as it does not impact class sizes. WLCSC bills the transfer students' home school corporation for ALL the costs WLCSC taxpayers pay including the current referendum. This money is received at the end of each school year.
The state distributes money from revenue it collects in income tax, sales tax, gaming revenues, etc. to the almost 400 Indiana school corporations, virtual schools and charter school associations based on a funding formula the state legislature creates and passes bi-annually as part of the state budget process.
All funding issues begin with the 100 legislators in the Indiana House. The state funding formula provides about 97% of the revenue in WLCSC’s General Fund. About 90% of this fund pays for teachers and staff of the corporation and the inter-local agreement for students with special needs. The funding formula begins with a per pupil "foundation" or base amount.
Added to the foundation amount is a calculation of a "complexity index" for the education of "at-risk" children. In the past, the complexity index has used census data or free and reduced lunch eligibility to help determine the needs of a community. Now the index uses the percentage of students eligible for welfare services or in foster care in the school system. About 20 percent of the West Lafayette students are included in the complexity index. The state average is almost 60%.
A significant inequity in the funding formula occurs when the money for an at-risk student does not follow the child to another school district. For example, the top funded districts receive $2700 extra for each at-risk student. When these same students move to WLCSC, the millions of extra dollars do not follow those students. There are no significant adjustments to the funding formula for a school corporation based upon achievement scores. Most discussion on "merit pay" centers on individual teacher pay and not the amount given to schools to fund those teachers. There is also no accountability for achievement results from those school corporations and charter school associations with higher levels of at risk students from the additional money they generated.
The 2008 Property Tax Reform legislation and the continuing funding decline against inflation since, has now made the inequities in the funding formula a serious funding crisis by making state funding based on the General Assembly’s formula the only source of funding to pay for classroom instruction. Changes to the foundation amount, adding an index for academic results and some other tweaks to the formula are all possible, but will most likely be gradual changes over the next several years if at all.
For more information on school funding in the state of Indiana, check this article "The basics of school funding in Indiana: Difficulty defining fairness" from the education news site Chalkbeat.
By state law, school districts can't use other school funds (Debt Service, Transportation, Capital Projects Funds) to pay General Fund expenses such as salaries. For example, money used to build buildings cannot be used for teacher salaries and instructional supplies. These laws also limit creative funding reduction ideas like four day school weeks, cutting transportation to save teachers, changes in food service, charging parents tuition and more.
No teaching positions have been lost because of past or current building projects. Facilities in the schools are shared with the whole town, including youth programs, service club use, fundraisers and instructional swimming.
New facility improvements scheduled for the West Lafayette School district will maintain and improve the learning environment for the students. Without the operating funding the referendum provides, these improvements will not have the staff support needed to provide a world‐class education.
Indiana law does not allow school corporations to advocate for a referendum once it has been placed on the ballot by the School Board. Information and communication about the referendum from that point must come from a source independent of the school corporation, such as a group driven by community members.
In addition, school employees with a few exceptions (e.g. superintendent and business manager) cannot advocate for the referendum during regular school hours “while they are on the clock”; however, before and after school, WLCSC staff members are like anyone else and can advocate for the referendum.
Some community minded patrons have volunteered and more are needed to help with the referendum. These patrons as well as other volunteers will begin to mobilize to support the referendum. Friends of West Lafayette Schools has been formed to guide this campaign process. The officers include Honorary Chairperson, Former Mayor Sonya Margerum; Chairperson, Former State Representative Sue Scholer; and Treasurer, Eric Burns.
In order to fund the campaign, including yard signs, brochures and this web site, the Friends of WLS must raise money from sources outside of the school corporation funds. Donations can be made with a credit or debit card here.
This section is under construction. Check back soon for updates.
The renewal of the 2010 referendum must take place in 2017 because it expires in seven years. There are no other elections scheduled for 2017 so the renewal of the West Lafayette referendum forces a special election. Voters registered in the West Lafayette Community School Corporation district will be the only ones voting on May 2, 2017 and the early voting that precedes the election. The Tippecanoe County Election Board approved a plan for this election that prioritizes voter convenience and reduces potential election costs by using paper ballots.
Method of voting: Voters will be verified with the Tippecanoe County ePollbook system as has been the custom in past elections. Voters will receive a paper scan ballot (like a standardized test) with the referendum question. Ballots will be counted against the ePollbook voter tally and then brought to the Tippecanoe County Office Building (TCOB) for scanning. The county has four machines available for this purpose. Voters will sit at tables with provisional ballot screens on tables to protect privacy.
Voter Registration: Voters will still be required to be registered 29 days in advance of the election. Voters must be registered by the close of business April 4, 2017 or midnight for online registration at indianavoters.com.
In-office voting: Monday, April 17, 2017 is the first day that a voter may vote an absentee ballot in the voter registration office located at the TCOB, 20 N 3rd St, Lafayette, IN 47901.
Satellite in-district voting:
Election Day: Four vote centers. Watch for voter entrance and parking signs.
We are here to answer any questions you might have. Reach out to us with a comment or a question and we’ll respond just as soon as we can.