November 6, 2017-In a letter to the editor, TigerPAC Chair Mary Ellen Slazyk pointed out that the increased cost to a Hammond homeowner with a net assessed valuation of $50,000 would be $400 if both school referenda pass on November 7. Before printing the letter, Post-Tribune editors changed the cost from $400 to just $44 per year. In a letter to Mary Ellen, Editor Joseph Biesk states that he used the School City of Hammond calculator to determine the increase in tax and replaced the number. Hammond residents should understand that the calculator on the School City of Hammond website calculates only one of two referenda. Voters will be asked to approve an operating referendum which will increase property taxes by 44 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Even at 44 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, the cost for a home with a $50,000 net assessed valuation would be $220.00, not $44 as stated by the Post-Tribune editors. Additionally, a capital expenditures referendum appears on the ballot and that referendum will increase the cost by 36 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. For a home with a $50,000 net assessed valuation, that would be an additional $180.00 for a total of $400,00 per year.
The response, posted above, makes it clear that they relied on the calculator provided by the Hammond Schools which includes only one of the referenda. In order to come up with the $44 number, Post-Tribune editors changed “net assessed value”-which is the value after deductions-to “gross assessed value.” The Post-Tribune then applied the deductions in the calculator and came multiplied by .44% instead of .80%.
The entire, unedited letter is reprinted below:
Hammond referendum burden on taxpayers
The Hammond School referendums are an additional $180 million bill for the taxpayers. The additional tax impact will be a combined 80 cents per $100 of net assessed value of the property. For example, if your property’s net assessed value is $50,000, you would pay $400.
The School City of Hammond closed, consolidated, and built new school buildings in the past 15 years. This previous plan was proposed as a solution to the declining test scores and would save taxpayers money. Test scores continued to fall. The taxpayers saved $11 million when schools were closed, but then were stuck with a $110 million bill for the newly constructed buildings for 20 more years. Now, the SCH wants to add $180 million more to your bill.
For years, the Hammond High building — which is ADA compliant and has technological upgrades for the students — has been neglected. Curtains were rotting on the windows, paint was peeling, and carpeting was patched with duct tape. These issues were recently corrected by an outcry of the public. The pool, which was equally shared by Hammond High and Eggers Middle School students, has not been operational for five years. While Hammond High has been treated like the unwanted stepchild of the SCH, other schools in the district received millions of dollars in projects. Morton High School received $19,950,000 in new athletic facilities, and many other perks, just under the $20 million needed to have voter approval.
Fifty-two SCH administrators have a yearly payroll of more than $5 million dollars, not counting health insurance or use of newer vehicles. The school board previously voted for $1-per-year health insurance for themselves.
The SCH has said employees will lose their jobs if the referendum fails. Just five years ago, the SCH told 200 employees they should expect pink slips. The SCH has said that transportation for the students will cease if the referendum fails. By state law, a school corporation must provide transportation for special education students. As for other students currently being transported, state law dictates that a school corporation has to give the public three years warning before stopping service.
If the referendum passes, there is no guarantee the new school will be built. The Department of Education and the Department of Local Government Finance in Indianapolis would have to give their approval. The proposal calls for the new combined middle/high school to be built at the west end of the Hammond High property. Originally, the SCH wanted Harrison Park as the site of the new structure. The state guidelines are for a middle school to be built on a minimum 15 acres and a high school on 20 acres. The Hammond High plot is 4.1 acres. Harrison Park — dedicated by President McKinley in the 1800s — is 25 acres. Will historic Harrison Park be sacrificed for the whim of the SCH?
Vote no on the Hammond School Referendum!
Mary Ellen Slazyk
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 The Northwest Indiana Gazette