My work with the 2017 referendum
My participation in the 2017 referendum effort is one thing that seems to come up from time to time, so it might be worth sharing a little more about it. The State reorganized the school funding structure a great deal in 2008, making schools more reliant on the State and on state sales taxes for funding. The economy crashed at the end of 2008 and into 2009, resulting in schools statewide facing financial difficulty. One mechanism the legislature left open to local school corporations was to ask local taxpayers to approve a referendum to adopt an additional property tax rate for school funding. In 2010, after a hotly contested campaign, the result of the referendum was that the citizens of West Lafayette voted in favor of the additional tax rate. State law requires that those rates be renewed by referendum every seven years, otherwise they expire.
I was appointed to the school board toward the end of 2015 to fill out a term that ended in 2016. During my tenure on the board, one of the things we did was lay the groundwork for the referendum renewal. This was absolutely critical for West Side. Most of the decisions made by the General Assembly about school funding over the last 30 years have been to the detriment of West Lafayette schools (for a variety of reasons: compact geography, lots of rentals, relatively affluent, etc.) So, West Lafayette is more dependent on that referendum tax rate than the average school corporation.
The 2016 election didn’t go my way – I lost by four votes (one of the closest if not the closest losses in Tippecanoe County history!) The referendum vote was set for May 2017. So, I pitched in and helped out to campaign for its passage. I’m not sure how remarkable that ought to be, but it has been remarked upon. The Journal & Courier story on the referendum’s passage took a paragraph or two to note that I kept my promise to stump for the referendum. I was also told that my efforts were a point in my favor when the West Lafayette Education Association was considering endorsements.
As I said in a blog post back in 2017 (read the whole thing here for an extended discussion), the effort was enjoyable. Knocking on doors (pre-pandemic) was a lot of fun. My favorite co-campaigners were my kids. We had a data-entry app. I’d talk, and they’d thumb-in the results. I was able to meet or get to better know others involved in the campaign. Developing relationships is an under-appreciated aspect of community efforts. The community is strengthened not just because of the goal that is the focus of the effort. It’s also strengthened by the act of working together with your friends and neighbors.
Ultimately, the referendum was approved in a landslide. But we can’t take that for granted. We need to start laying the groundwork for the next referendum. Win or lose this election, I am happy to work on that effort as well.
Father. Husband. Hoosier. Lawyer. Candidate.
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