The Barr-Reeve School Board has opened 2020 by beginning a march toward a new operations referendum during the May primary. The school system, which receives one of the lowest per pupil expenditures by the state, has been able for the last seven years to lower class sizes and add programs, in part, because the voters adopted an additional maximum 35 cents per $100 valuation tax levy.

“In 2013 we hit a financial wall where we liquidated all of the savings we had,” said Barr-Reeve School Superintendent Dr. Travis Madison. “We were left with a choice. Either cut, cut, cut and become a shell of the corporation we were, or got to the taxpayers and ask for assistance. It was a sound decision. Our voters were in favor by 82 percent. Our community stepped up for us big time in 2013.”

Madison points out that since that time the school system has managed to grow. There are now more than 200 additional students in the school system. He says the referendum provided the money for the school to improve. “It’s given us flexibility and freedom,” said Madison. “We did not have to let teachers go or cut programs. It led to a steady growth.”

That 2013 referendum was for seven years, and it expires after this year. The school system intends to seek a lower maximum rate of 25 cents per $100 property valuation for eight years.

“We are coming to our tax payers with a lower burden and hope it continues to decrease,” said Madison.

To put the referendum for operational expenses on the ballot in May the school board will have to finalize their question next month. They already have one that has been preliminarily approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government and Finance.

For the eight calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum shall the Barr-Reeve Community Schools, Inc. impose a tax rate that does not exceed 25 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation, and that is in addition to all other property taxes imposed by the school corporation for the purpose of replacing the expiring referendum tax levy with a replacement referendum tax that will provide continued funding for small class sizes, athletics and extracurricular programs, elementary music, physical education programs and school safety resources?

The board intends to hold an informational meeting on the proposal on Feb. 5 at the school cafeteria to explain how the money was spent in the past and what the plan is for spending it in the future. The finalized question will be submitted after that meeting.

“We are trying to get as much information out as we can in hopes that when the voters go to the polls in May that they go with accurate information and make a sound decision,” said Madison.

The school system is not planning to use a Political Action Committee or hold rallies for the passage of the referendum. The hope is that the school public is familiar with what they are doing and supporting enough to allow it to continue.

“My hope is that the folks kind of know how it works because they have been through it for the last seven years,” said Madison. “There’s really not anything changed. It’s just that we’re going to come asking for less, and my hope is that this is the last time we have to. We still feel there is a need. We still need the flexibility. We don’t want to lose the momentum we have built up here.”
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