CEDAR LAKE — Hanover Community School Corp. voters, who narrowly turned down a referendum on Tuesday, can expect to see another proposal on the ballot sooner or later.

Officials sought a $44 million construction referendum to help cover the cost of a expansion plan to accommodate increasing enrollment in the growing Cedar Lake-based district. The measure failed by just 68 votes, with 51.56% voting against and 48.44% in favor.

Hanover will not be allowed to seek another substantially similar referendum for 700 days following Tuesday’s vote, according to state election laws, unless the district can secure 500 property owners’ or 5% of its constituents’ support in a petition submitted to the county auditor.

If successful in gaining that support, the district must still wait 350 days. Superintendent Mary Tracy-MacAulay said Hanover’s bond counsel is exploring this as an option.

“Regardless of it is in one year or two, we will need to seek a referendum again to address the growing enrollment,” Tracy-MacAulay said.

Anticipating a 250- to 300-student rise in enrollment, Hanover administrators proposed, among other smaller projects, a $30.5 million elementary school and $8.5 million resource center meant to free up space for career and technical education programming in the high school.

Now, the district could see the placement of mobile classroom units, or trailers, reminiscent of those used in the Lake Central School Corp. after its failed 2009 referendum.

Last year, to offset rising enrollment trends, the district brought its fifth-grade classes into Hanover Central Middle School.

District enrollment has been on a steady rise for years, seeing a growth of more than 250 students since the 2014-15 school year, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

And this growth is expected to continue. More than 1,000 new homes are expected to be built in Hanover Township’s boundaries in the coming year, Hanover Director of Business Services Adam Minth said in an April community meeting.

Tracy-MacAulay said she does not believe trailers would be needed next school year, but that if projected growth continues, they would likely be needed in the years following.

The units, if needed, also would cost the district tens of thousands of dollars.

Tracy-MacAulay estimates one mobile unit containing two classrooms ranges from $33,000 to $50,000 each.

She said units would likely be placed at three of the district's four schools, including Jane Ball Elementary, Lincoln Elementary and Hanover Central Middle School.

“That is money that is forever lost to the district,” Tracy-MacAulay said in a statement provided to The Times. “It is certainly not the preferred learning environment for our students.”

That prospect doesn't sit well with referendum supporters, including Andy Yakubik.

“The challenge of not having classrooms is not going away,” Yakubik said. “In two years, it’s only going to be worse.”

A significant opposition voice grew ahead of the Tuesday vote expressing taxation fatigue.

The Hanover district passed a 29 cents per $100 assessed valuation operating referendum in 2015 with 54% voting in favor.

Several longtime Cedar Lake residents at an April community meeting questioned why their taxes should increase again to foot the bill for residential growth in St. John.

Hanover administrators worked in the weeks leading up to the vote to explain the impact of the tax increase, which with homestead exemptions and coming property tax caps, promised to be less than the maximum 56 cents per $100 assessed valuation tax on the ballot.

“Regardless of it is in one year or two, we will need to seek a referendum again to address the growing enrollment,” Tracy-MacAulay said.

The district also will look in the next couple years to continue its current operating referendum, which funds support staff and will help offset debt exemptions ending in December 2019.

The operating referendum, separate from the construction referendum sought this May, will end in 2022. Tracy-MacAulay said the district will seek the 29-cent referendum at no tax increase.

“This is not the outcome I expected or hoped for,” Tracy-MacAulay said Tuesday night. “I wish it was a different outcome for our kids, but we’ll be back. There is no other option.”

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