Two Lake County school districts will seek public support this May, each for different reasons.

Hanover Community School Corp. and River Forest Community School Corp. will ask voters on the May 7 ballot to agree to increased financial help. Here’s what’s on the table for both school districts.

Hanover looks to keep up with growing enrollment

Hanover Community School Corp. is seeking a maximum property tax increase of 56 cents per $100 of assessed value to support construction of a new elementary school, resource center and community building, and a new roof for Lincoln Elementary School.

If passed, the tax increase would come in addition to the district’s current operating referendum, passed in May 2015, collecting 29 cents per $100 of assessed value. Those funds, feeding into a separate district account, support pay for Hanover teachers and staff.

This May’s construction referendum looks to support funding specifically for building and grounds projects in the growing Cedar Lake district. Hanover’s enrollment totals have increased consistently in the last five years — up more than 200 students since the 2014-15 school year.

Superintendent Mary Tracy-MacAulay said both the district’s elementary schools sit with only one available classroom, and the middle school with no additional space whatsoever.

Hanover schools worked with Indianapolis-based architecture firm Gibraltar Design to study district capacity at the beginning of the school year and found construction of new facilities would be more cost-effective than adding on to existing schools.

The district has since proposed construction of a new 113,000-square-foot upper elementary school to serve grades three through five, and be built on district property near Hanover Central Middle School. The two existing elementaries would then serve kindergarten through second grade.

Hanover also looks to build a new resources center — also on district property — to house technology, food services and operational staff, and has proposed a community building complete with locker rooms, restrooms and concessions space near the district’s athletics fields.

“I feel very fortunate — a lot of schools are worried about decreasing enrollment,” Tracy-MacAulay said. “I’m glad Cedar Lake and Hanover is a destination district. It makes me really happy and proud to be a part of it.”

The Hanover Community School Corp. will have a community referendum meeting ahead of the May 7 vote at 6:30 p.m. on April 17 in the Large Group Instruction room at Hanover Central Middle School. In the meantime, MacAulay said, residents can call the district’s central office at 219-374-3500 with questions.

River Forest looks to maintain services, avoid transportation cuts

River Forest Community School Corp. also will ask its community’s support this May in an operating referendum looking to replace its current voter-supported tax rate of 42 cents per $100 of assessed value, passed in 2015.

Assistant Superintendent Kevin Trezak said the additional revenue is needed to help the district meet the demands of the coming 2020 property tax cap deadline in which he expects the district will stand to lose an additional $600,000 a year.

Trezak said debt incurred after an unexpected fire at River Forest High School nearly 15 years ago will prove particularly burdensome as the tax cap deadline goes into effect on Dec. 31, 2019. That, paired with the state's current funding model, has led to River Forest’s complex financial situation.

The district already has begun doing more with less, Trezak said, but without greater referendum support, River Forest might look to make cuts starting with the district’s transportation services, which operate at more than $620,000 annually.

"We're running about as efficient and as tight as we can," River Forest Superintendent Steve Disney said. "The most important thing is to get kids to school and provide a safe environment."

The district’s requested $1.19 per $100 of assessed valuation will replace River Forest’s 2015 referendum numbers, meaning taxpayers will not pay both. If the new referendum is passed this May, the district will only ask $1.09 per $100 of assessed valuation for the first two years of the eight-year referendum, Disney said.

River Forest’s last referendum passed with 69 percent of the vote.

“This is a very supportive community,” Trezak said. “We want to maintain the best services we can moving forward.”

River Forest has three upcoming informational meetings to discuss the referendum; one at 6:30 p.m. March 20 at River Forest High School, a second at 6 p.m. April 17 at Meister Elementary School, and a third at 6 p.m. April 23 at Evans Elementary School.

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