EACS Board Request Redesign Referendum

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

January 24, 2012 Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 4:59 AM EDT

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Residents in East Allen County could see a tax increase of $83 a year, if they vote to approve it. East Allen County Schools (EACS) Board members approved to request putting a referendum on the May Primary ballot Tuesday night.

Tuesday night, School Board members approved putting the third phase of EACS redesign project to a referendum. Since no petition to request public question was filed, Board members will ask the Allen County Election Board to place the referendum on the May 8 ballot for a public vote.

The third phase of the redesign project includes renovations to New Haven Elementary, New Haven High School, and Paul Harding High School, and will cost residents $88 million. For someone with a $100,000 home, it could mean a tax hike of $83 a year.

New Haven Elementary would become New Haven Intermediate, housing K-6 grades. Harding would become East Allen University High School, and New Haven High would become a Junior-Senior High School hosting 7-12 grades. Both New Haven and Harding will upgrade their HVAC and electrical systems, which haven’t been upgraded since they were built in the 1970s, Stahly says. New Haven HS will get a new gym and 62 additional classrooms as well. Stahly says those upgrades and needed maintenance will be 60 to 70 percent of the $88 million cost.

Phases one and two of the redesign project involve transforming Woodlan and Heritage Junior-Senior High Schools into K-12 schools. Woodlan’s renovations will cost $10.8 million, and will increase resident taxes to $7.93 a year. EACS officials say that’s less than $1 increase. Heritage will cost residents $11.9 million with a tax increase of $8.84 a year.

Residents like Mike Clendenen, New Haven, want one vote on all phases instead of the referendum on the third phase alone. He says it’s unfair because the project only affects Adams and New Haven Townships, yet everyone in the district will have to take tax hikes to pay for it.

“They say they’re sustainable and a direct improvement for education, but if that’s the case we feel it should be going to all the voters. We should all have a stake in this redesign plan and that everybody, district-wide, all vote for one plan,” Clendenen said. “There are no building improvements in the Leo area. So I think it’s going to be real hard for voters to get behind the referendum and vote for something in New Haven and Adams Twp.”

Clendenen says he thinks everyone should be involved, but if the redesign plan is good enough, then everyone will support it.

Stahly says the third phase qualifies for a referendum because it cost more than $12 million. Phases one and two cost less than that, and don’t qualify for a referendum, but they do qualify for a petition remonstrance.

“Referendum means it's placed on the ballot, petition remonstrance means people sign a petition. Either yellow ‘for’ or if they're against, they sign the blue. Both of them have input from the voters,” Stahly said.

The Woodlan and Heritage redesign plans have already been approved, and EACS is proceeding with the renovation process. If the third phase gets voted down in the May Primary, Stahly says the Board won’t give up.

“The Board is dedicated to the redesign plan. It will just take longer to implement,” he said.

For a look at the redesign plans, click on "EACS Redesign Plan" under New Links on our homepage.

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