News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 21, 2013

The petition/remonstrance process

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new, $9.5 million swimming pool facility being proposed by the Vigo County School Corp. would be subject to a petition and remonstrance process, if the School Board decides to move forward.

The process applies to “controlled” projects by a government unit costing between $2 million and $10 million. Controlled projects are those that would be financed by a bond issue or a lease, typically construction or remodeling projects.

• First, the School Board would conduct a 1028 public hearing outlining the project, cost and means of financing.

If it decides to go forward, it must publish a notice of its preliminary decision to issue bonds or enter a lease.

• After the notice is published, property owners and registered voters in the county would have 30 days to initiate the remonstrance process by filing a petition with the county Voter Registration Office.

Only property owners or registered voters in the taxing unit (in this case, Vigo County) could sign the petition. It would have to be signed by the lesser of either 100 registered voters or property owners, or 5 percent of registered voters in Vigo County.

• Once the petition is filed, the voter registration office must verify the signatures of registered voters, and the county auditor verifies the signatures of property owners.

The voter registration office has 15 business days to confirm if those signing are registered voters, and from there, the auditor has 10 business days to verify that the remaining signatures belong to property owners living within the district.

Voter registration then has another 10 days to finalize results and certify the petition. State law provides additional time if there are more than 10,000 signatures.

• If the school board wants to move forward with the project, it must publish a notice of the petition/remonstrance process.

Once the notice is published, there is a 30-day “cooling off” period, during which no action occurs.

• After the “cooling off” period, both sides can begin to collect signatures on the respective petitions or remonstrance forms.

Each side has 30 days to collect as many signatures as possible. Again, only property owners or registered voters in the taxing unit (Vigo County) could sign.

• Once the deadline is over, signatures then go through the same verification process and timelines (involving voter registration and auditor) that occurred with the initial petition to start the process. It involves a 35-business day timeline.

The side with the most signatures “wins,” and one vote could determine whether the project proceeds.

If those opposed have the majority, the project could not proceed for at least one  year.

If more people sign in favor, the project goes on.

• Those who circulate the petition/remonstrance forms must be voters or property owners in the affected taxing unit; they must sign the petition or remonstrance; and they must sign and swear before a notary that they personally witnessed every signature on the petition or remonstrance that they carried.

The state Board of Accounts provides the forms, which are obtained at the Voter Registration Office.

Source: Department of Local Government Finance website and the Indiana School Boards Association; compiled by reporter Sue Loughlin.