BROOKSTON — Most residents in the Frontier School District won’t see a change in property taxes if the school operating referendum passes in the May 7 primary.
Although the referendum would raise property taxes 21 cents per $100 assessed valuation, when it goes into effect, the district will have paid off two bond issues that equal that amount.
The two events effectively balance each other out, said Frontier School Corporation Superintendent Dan Sichting.
“But we’re not allowed to tell that story when you go to the ballot box,” he said.
The district also isn’t allowed to inform voters that if school expenses go down, the district could lessen, he told the Frontier Rotary Club on Wednesday.
That’s why the district and the people who care about the referendum passing need to get out the vote, Sichting said.
A few will see a raise in taxes, though, he said.
Those who have reached the circuit breaker credit will see the increase, about 106 voters, he said.
There are about 2,400 eligible voters, and 1,200 to 1,400 of them will be likely voters in the primary election.
What Frontier needs is people to not just get the word out, but to meet with people and begin knocking on doors.
Sets of two volunteers would go out to the homes of identified likely voters and talk to them from a script, and so identifying which people they talk to are most likely to vote in favor of the referendum.
“Come election day, we want these people who’ll support us to get out to the polls,” Sichting said.
Although the district could just renew or reissue bonds again, that wouldn’t allow school officials to use the money where it’s needed _ for teachers and education expenses.
Sichting said when he first became superintendent, he listened to everyone. The thing he heard most often was people were dissatisfied with the teacher turnover rate.
Because the state now pays for school budgets from sales and gaming taxes, schools are given money per student.
Some things increase the rate, such as students on free or reduced lunches or diversity, he said.
Frontier serves a homogenous, fairly well-off community, so where the 2018 state average rate per student was $6,060, Frontier received $5,353 per student.
That means less money to pay teachers and more teachers going to larger districts where they can sometimes make at least $10,000 more.
Frontier can’t afford to pay instructional aides more than $8 to $9 an hour, and McDonald’s is paying $11-$12 an hour, and factories are paying $15 an hour, Sichting said.
Besides polling voters and getting them to vote, volunteers are needed to work on getting signs on lawns, getting more volunteers and raising funds.
Passing the referendum would require about $15,000 to get the word out and explain what the referendum would do, Sichting said.
So far, Friends of Frontier has raised $5,000 to $6,000 of that with less than a month until the primary election.
By law, none of that money in the campaign can be school money, and Frontier representatives can’t ask businesses the district does business with for donations, he said.
Friends of Frontier is raising money, much of it by going door to door.
Sichting said any help is accepted, and those promoting the referendum can find work for anyone’s abilities.
But they do need the help for small tasks.
“You’re not volunteering your time for two to three months. You’re volunteering for two to three weeks,” he said. “We just need people to help us.”
Those interested in volunteering can call Sichting at 219-984-5009, and he will put them in touch with the two volunteer coordinators.