Haworth seeks $4M in cuts, $7M ballot measure this fall

Tribune-Star/Austen Leake Downtown: The Vigo County School Corporation headquarters is located downtown at the corner of 7th Street and Wabash Avenue.

If the Vigo County School Corp. meets requirements outlined in state law for an operating levy referendum — including an Aug. 1 deadline — then the referendum goes forward.

The matter is now in the hands of the School Board, and if it approves the $7 million funding request and the referendum language meets state standards, then it will go onto the fall ballot.

On Monday, Vigo County schools superintendent Rob Haworth made a presentation on the school district’s financial challenges. The cash balance is declining significantly, and Haworth is proposing a combination of $4 million in budget cuts and an operating levy referendum of $7 million to be placed on the ballot this fall.

The superintendent will seek School Board approval of the referendum next month, and a series of community meetings will begin next week related to budget issues and referendum.

The $7 million operating referendum would help support safety, security, health, wellness and transportation, and it also would help the district attract and retain teachers and staff, Haworth said.

State law outlines the process for an operating levy referendum.

“It is a complex process,” said Brad King, co-director of the Indiana Election Division. That process is outlined on the DLGF’s web site at https://www.in.gov/dlgf/8790.htm

The school board must adopt a resolution and certify a copy, including the language of the proposed question, to the Department of Local Government Finance, which reviews the language and either approves or rejects it.

DLGF must send its determination to the school within 10 days after the resolution has been submitted to it.

If DLGF approves the language, the school board must certify a copy of the resolution, including the language of the proposed question and the department’s approval, to the county fiscal body -- for information purposes only -- and to the circuit court clerk.

The district’s proposed operating levy referendum does not address capital, or building, needs. It is separate and distinct from a capital referendum expected for May 2021.

King said if the school district’s ballot question meets requirements of the law, “There is no discretion involved. It [referendum] goes forward.”

Everything must be in place for the county election board by noon Aug. 1 for the question to be on the ballot, King said.

In addition to a possible school tax levy referendum, Vigo County voters also likely will vote on a casino referendum in the fall.

Kara Anderson, president of the Vigo County Election Board, said Tuesday the board is still gathering information on the casino referendum.

“We are still evaluating what would have to occur ... we haven’t decided anything.”

This year there are municipal elections, but possible casino and school operations referendums would be countywide. Voting sites outside of the city would be needed, Anderson said.

Brad Newman, Vigo County clerk and secretary of the county election board, was out of town at a conference. He said he read news reports about a proposed school operating referendum and will “look at it when I get back.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

Sue Loughlin has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star for more than 30 years. She covers general news with a focus on education.