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Franklin Township schools face sobering cuts

Tuesday's election results mean cuts are coming to Franklin Township schools. That's after voters rejected a $13 million school budget referendum.
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INDIANAPOLIS - Major cuts are coming to Franklin Township schools after voters rejected a budget referendum. A day after the vote, the community is still divided on the outcome.

The red signs that read "vote no" were outnumbered by signs urging "yes" on Franklin Township lawns. But the vote that mattered at the polls Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected the $13 million school budget referendum.

"I really can't afford this tax situation. And there's a lot of people who can't," said Richard Ballard, resident.

Ballard estimates the additional cost to him for his ranch home would have been about $700 a year. But those in favor of the referendum say the day after the election, it is the community that will pay the bigger price.

"This is about education," said Jack Spence. "This is about the future of our kids."

Franklin Township schools were among a number of systems that turned to taxpayers after the state cut funding. It also lost property tax revenue used to pay for transportation.

Cuts already approved and that take effect next school year include the closure of two elementary schools and one middle school. Consolidating the two elementary schools will mean larger class sizes.

Buses will no longer take most students to and from school and dozens of teachers will lose their jobs.

Two-lane roads are the main routes to and from Franklin township schools, and without bus service Spence predicts traffic problems.

"Carmel has never seen a traffic jam like we'll have next year," he said.

Art, music, physical education and orchestra programs will be cut along with their 23 teachers. A reduction in force will cut another 58 teacher for a total of 81 along with other staff.

"People are so worried about the drop out rates to begin with. It's going to be a real problem next year," said Jennifer Hudson, parent.

Time spent in class will be altered as well.

 

"When we have to escort students in and out from car riders, not buses, it will take time to do that," said Dr. Walter Bourke, superintendent.

On Wednesday, even though the vote was over, the debate continued.

"At our age, retirement age, just Social Security coming in, I can't afford these prices," said Ballard.

"I'm on a fixed income, but I can make the sacrifices to pay the extra $35 to $ 40 a month," said Spence.

Whether they voted yes or not, there is one thing many can agree on: the long-term effect the debate over school cuts will have on their community.

"Unfortunately it's torn the township apart," said Spence.

This was the second time the school hoped voters would approve the referendum. The superintendent said this afternoon it is likely there won't be a third try.

"Our community has spoken clearly. Our job is to balance our budget and have our expenditures match our revenue," said Bourke.

While other school districts like nearby Perry Township passed referendums, some wonder whether the "no" vote here will have families following the road out of Franklin Township.

"I live in an apartment right now. When I go to look for a house, it won't be in Franklin Township," said Hudson.

Avon rejects referendum

Almost two out of three voters in Avon rejected a school referendum there. 63 percent said no to increasing property taxes.

Without that additional $3.4 million, administrators say they're considering cutting 40 teaching and administrative positions. Classes like art, music, physical education and other classes would be cut along with extra curricular programs.

Perry gives thumbs-up to two referendums

In Perry Township, voters said yes to two referendums. 58 percent approved $10 million for teachers and programs. The funding will save 125 teaching positions. It also prevents the merging of Perry Meridian and Southport High Schools.

Elementary and middle schools will not be re-organized. Art, music and physical education classes will be preserved.

57 percent of Perry Township voters also approved spending $50 million for building maintenance projects.

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