Fact-Check: Referendum Flyer

Olivia Oliver and Mario Faiman

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Based on different handouts distributed in local neighborhoods, there are several claims being made about school finances that hold partial truths. A team of Trojaneer reporters decided to fact check several of these claims. Below are their findings.

Paying $187,000 superintendent salary

On the public website, Indiana Gateway, all salaries of school employees and more are recorded, free for the public to access. The reported amount that Richard Arkanoff, the Center Grove School Superintendent, received in 2018 was  $198,763.42.


Pay out over $400,000 in top salaries at Center Grove

This claim is very vague with no explanation as to what defines a “top salary.” The top salary in the district is Dr. Richard Arkanoff, the superintendent. The corporation website lists the leadership positions and by adding all of the salaries of those positions listed from Indiana Gateway , Center Grove paid nearly $1.5 million last year to upper-level district administration. 


Just gave out 4.9% pay raise and now CG needs the taxpayer’s funds to cover those raises and to get their votes as well as cover their property tax increases. All part of the same funding

This is incorrect. A portion of the money raised is to pay the salaries of new staff members who will be brought on as part of the mental health aspect of the referendum. This 4.9% raise is not covered by the referendum; in fact, Center Grove prioritized teacher pay through the bargaining process. The funds received must go toward what is outlined in the referendum, though they may pay for existing positions that fall within the safety and security parameters, freeing up funds for future teacher raises or additional teacher hires.

“The increase [teachers] got total was 4.5%. 2.15% of that was what we call a step, which the corporation gives as a cost of living raise. The 2.35% was to be an actual raise,” English teacher David Lawson said.


School system is already receiving $6,000 per student with 7,735 students-$46 million already for only 9 months of school

This is an oversimplification. According to the Administrative Office’s public records, for the 2019-2020 school year, the average amount received per student is $5,566.46 for around 8,750 students, which is a little over $48 million dollars but funds services for 12 months, not nine. According to the 2016 Annual Survey of School System Finances by the U.S. Census Bureau, the total per pupil spending in Indiana is $9,856. That is a difference of $4,290 per student.


Referendum to raise another 28 million dollars more

With the referendum expected to make $3.1 million per year, after 8 years the total amount raised would be $24.8 million.


College credit courses with professors demanded to be paid for by the taxpayer’s moneys – Not Voted On By Taxpayers

In regards to taxpayers paying for college professors, this claim is false. The instructors of these courses are teachers within the district who get paid the same way any other teacher would. The limited number of adjunct professors who teach a few Early College courses are paid for by Vincennes University.

“All of those [college credit] courses and [their instructors] are teachers that we hire. Now, they’re paid a little more based on their salary schedule and their degree. It doesn’t matter if they’re an AP teacher, a Dual Credit teacher, or just a teacher in the district. If they have a Masters degree, they get paid more. If they have a doctorate, they get paid more,” Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

As for the fees that come with certain Dual Credit and/or AP courses, these fees are mandated by different organizations and paying these are left up to the discretion of students and their families, not taxpayers.


Bargersville’s building boom will add more than enough future taxes

This is statement is partially true. Bargersville is experiencing a definite increase in population, according to the Daily Journal. However, the tax revenue produced by this cannot cover the entirety of what the referendum is proposing. This tax revenue will go towards building projects like Walnut Grove, improvements to the high school and middle schools, and other building expenditures.

“The way property taxes work is that we get a portion for dollars from property taxes and obviously the more that live in the community, the more people that are paying property taxes. That money goes towards what we call debt service,” Arkanoff said. “What we do is borrow money to build buildings [like] Walnut Grove, for example. We were able to build Walnut Grove without increasing the property taxes based on the fact that we had more people living in the community and the value of homes had gone up. Because of that, we were able to get more money to build the next elementary [school]. [The statement on the flyer] is incorrect [because] that money is necessary for the next elementary, the next improvements to the high school, or the middle schools. We can’t use that money to pay anyone’s salaries. The only time we can use [excess] money for salaries is if we are doing a special election like now.”

This growth in the community cannot be used for the salaries of extra personnel hired through the referendum. Salary pay is pulled from either the education fund or operation fund only and therefore tax revenue will not be usable in paying for additional personnel.


Also already building a $5.7 Million dollar building for 5 police officers and security personnel. What happened to using existing space/building.

This amount of money is correct. Around $5.7 million dollars will be spent to build a new security center, but it will be housing several different organizations and departments as part of a joint operations center.

“We worked with the White River Township Fire Department, the Bargersville Fire Department, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department to pull all of our resources together to do this building. Center Grove School Corporation is building the building and paying for the majority of the building. It is going to house our police department and our health services department, but it is also going to be able to house the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department [and] White River and Bargersville fire departments, [who] will keep at least one ambulance in there and eventually probably other fire equipment. They wanted to do that to be closer to the high school and this campus because they make runs here probably several times per week.” 

Arkanoff stated that this building will potentially save taxpayer dollars because it will “centralize all of those services” and “cut down on the time it takes to run” the emergency service vehicles from their point of origin to the high school or to the next needed location.


MORE TAX INCREASES COMING SOON

There are no new tax increases as of the last approved budget, which was for the 2019-2020 school year. Property taxes, in fact, have not been raised in the district for the past 10 years, according to Arkanoff. As for any future projects, such as speculation around building onto existing middle schools or adding an entirely new one, this project will not come into fruition until at least 2035, according to Arkanoff.