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January 19, 2013

Referendum Q&A session set for Barr-Reeve

MONTGOMERY — Barr-Reeve Schools’ leaders are hosting an open meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the middle/high school cafeteria to allow taxpayers to ask questions about a proposed operating referendum.

“We want to provide forums for people to find out as much as possible,” Superintendent Travis Madison said. “We want to be as transparent as possible.”

He explained that a special election will take place in May for voters in the Barr-Reeve school district only. If voters approve the referendum, a property tax would be imposed on them over a seven-year period not to exceed 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. On a $100,000 home, he said, that’s $114. However, Madison said the amount would vary annually and should never reach the 35-cent maximum. He said a special fund would be created for the money, and accountability measures put in place so it could be used only for certain expenses.

“Barr-Reeve schools’ tax rate is set to drop 20 cents over the next couple of years,” Madison said. “This will make this increase less impactful.”

Next year, he said, the corporation’s tax rate will be 60 cents, down 10 cents from last year. Another 10 cents will come off in 2014, according to Madison, putting it in the 50-cent range before any referendum increase would be added.

The levy would compensate for the one eliminated by former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ tax reforms and for the loss of roughly $600,000 in state revenue over the past few years, according to the superintendent.

“Fiscally, the corporation has been very responsible,” Madison said, adding that expenditures have risen only minimally in the last 10 years, but the corporation has been hit hard by funding cuts.

He called the referendum a “safety net” to ensure the current level of quality education for Barr-Reeve students continues. If the referendum fails, it’s conceivable Barr-Reeve could be consolidated with another school corporation at some point. And if that happens, Madison continued, residents of the Barr-Reeve area would acquire the tax rate for that other corporation, which would cost taxpayers more than the referendum.

The tax rate for Washington schools is 97 cents, according to Madison, and at North Daviess it’s at or near 85 cents.

Madison will explain this and other information related to the referendum and election process at Tuesday’s meeting. He’ll then field questions from the audience.

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