Referendum 101

How are schools funded in Indiana?

The state provides a specific amount of money per student, and this amount is different for each school district and changes year to year.

Districts that serve more affluent areas get less money per student from the state. Districts with a higher percentage of low-income students (determined by the number of students who receive free/reduced lunch) get more funding per student for all students.

In 2019, these state dollars will be deposited to the district’s education fund to be spent on instructional programs including salaries and benefits, guidance and media services, and supplies.

Other district needs like transportation, capital projects (construction and building maintenance), bus replacements, and debt services are funded through property and special taxes.

When the state implemented property tax cap legislation, it significantly decreased funding for schools. Schools can now no longer fully collect property taxes from residents.

Referendum dollars are an optional funding source that must be voted on and approved by the community. They support the district and can be used in any budget area. Because of property tax cap legislation and decreases in state funding, districts are now more dependent on referendum funds to maintain services for students.


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What’s the referendum proposal for Noblesville Schools?

The current operating referendum tax rate is 18.9 cents. The new referendum would replace the 18.9 cents rate with a new rate of 37 cents. This would raise $6.25 million/year for eight years. For a median Noblesville home valued at $206,000 this means $15 more a month. Noblesville Schools is seeking this increase in funding so they can address mental health, school safety and teacher compensation needs. The new referendum would replace the existing one and would provide funding through 2026.

In 2016, Noblesville voters approved an extension of the district’s operating referendum at a reduced tax rate to maintain the status quo of programs, staff and services. Since then, additional school safety, mental health services and staff compensation needs have been identified.

The safety of our students and staff is our top priority and we need additional funding to provide enhanced protections, safety staff and safety-related services.

Also, the teacher shortage in Indiana continues to make recruiting and retaining talented teaching staff a significant challenge. Other area school districts have recently increased teacher compensation and we must do the same or we will continue to lose talented staff to other districts and the private sector. In some cases, our teachers are making $10,000 less than equivalent teachers in neighboring districts. Strong teachers are the most important factor for student growth, academic excellence and safety.

How much will the referendum actually cost me?

Noblesville Schools is asking the community to increase the referendum already in place to a rate of 37 cents. This would raise an additional $6.25 million/year.

The referendum rate is an annual rate applied to every $100 of a home or business net assessed value.

For a median Noblesville home valued at $206,000 this means $15 more a month

The website has a calculator tool Noblesville residents can use to see how much they pay currently with the 18.9 cent rate and what they would pay under the new 37 cent rate.

Will this referendum double my property taxes?

No. It is doubling the school referendum rate, but it will not double your overall property taxes. For a median Noblesville home valued at $206,000, this means $15 more a month. Check the tax calculator on to see what you are paying currently and what you would pay under the new proposal.

Why does the tax calculator show a different number than what I calculated?

The proposed 37 cent referendum rate is an annual rate applied to every $100 of a home or business’s net assessed value.

The calculator accounts for deductions to provide a more accurate picture of what you are actually paying now and what you would pay under the new proposal. Because of this, your results will look different that a simple math calculation.

If you have further questions, you can always contact the assessor’s office.

What’s the difference between capital and operating referendums?

Capital referendums fund building construction projects. For example, a 2010 capital referendum funded Promise Road Elementary as well as several building additions and renovations.

Operating referendums pay for people and programs including staff salaries, benefits, curricular offerings, supplies, and equipment.
Our current referendum is an operating referendum and we are asking that it be expanded. Teacher compensation and the majority of our safety enhancements are best addressed through operating funds. We anticipate that we will have some construction projects related to safety and we plan to fund those through a loan (bond) rather than a capital referendum. A construction loan will not increase property tax.

A Deeper Dive
How is Noblesville Schools spending the current referendum money?

The 2016 referendum was about maintaining status quo for staffing/programming and was a reduction in the tax rate.

Since 2009, Noblesville Schools has lost $46.5 million in funding.

The 2016 operating referendum funds are being spent on staff salaries and curricular programming to help Noblesville Schools maintain academic excellence.

Specifically, 2016 referendum dollars have been spent to maintain 150 staff positions and programming in art, music, physical education, STEM, media services and more. Funds are also being used to cover some transportation expenses

Why do you need more money again? We already passed a referendum before.

In 2016 the community supported a continued operating referendum at a lower tax rate to maintain the status quo for staff, programming and services. This was important because Noblesville Schools is in the bottom 10% in the state for state funding per pupil and has lost $46.5 million in funding since 2009. Noblesville Schools has been able to continue providing a high-caliber educational experience for students thanks to prudent financial decisions and careful use of operating referendum dollars received from the community.

The current referendum proposal is about increasing this funding beyond the status quo so that Noblesville Schools can enhance school safety and teacher compensation.

If the referendum passes, how will the additional funds be spent?

53% of referendum funding would be spent on mental health and safety staff, equipment and initiatives, while 47% would be spent on recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers and staff.

Referendum funding would be spent as follows:

Mental Health Staff and Initiatives ($1.57 Million)
• Screenings for students for suicide, anger, trauma, etc.
• One district mental health coordinator
• Ten social workers
• Staff for alternative education program: one director, one social worker, two teachers, school resource officer
• Two deans for middle schools
• Three teachers for English language learners
• Two additional elementary school counselors
• Mentoring program

Safety Staff & Equipment ($1.75 Million)
• Eight additional school resource officers to cover every school (50% of funding, City of Noblesville will cover other 50%)
• Funding for additional/overtime school resource officer staffing to cover security for approximately 10,000 evening/weekend/large events a year.
• One full time district safety director
• One AV/camera technician to manage security camera surveillance
• Enhanced communication technology system
• Specially trained gun detection dogs for each school
• Enhanced video systems on 100+ buses
• Increased bus security and bus driver professional development for 100+ buses/drivers
• Door barricading products for 1,500 classrooms and offices
• Increased facility lockdown tools for 10 schools
• Additional security camera equipment for 10 schools

Recruiting and Retaining High-Quality Teachers & Staff ($2.93 Million)
• Strong teachers are the most important factor in academic success & student connections
• Goal is to provide salaries that are competitive with other area districts so we can recruit and retain top-quality teaching staff
• Teachers are leaving Noblesville because of salary
• In some cases, Noblesville teachers are earning $10,000 less than comparable teachers in neighboring districts
• Additional teaching staff for middles/high school due to large class sizes and facility capacity
• Teacher compensation will be bargained with the Noblesville Teachers’ Forum, the exclusive union representative of our teachers

Why do you need money when the state said they would give more money to districts for school safety?

The state has provided additional funding for safe school grants to allow more districts to receive funds. It does not increase the amount of money districts can receive. Grants are not guaranteed and they are also matching, requiring the districts to spend their own funds. Noblesville Schools has received safe school grants in the past, but they are not adequate to meet the safety enhancements we have identified.

What will happen if the referendum doesn’t pass?

Noblesville Schools would not be able to provide enhanced mental health and safety staff, products and services, including no long term funding for school resource officers. Teacher compensation would continue to lag other area districts, possibly leading to more high-quality teachers leaving Noblesville Schools and continued difficulty in hiring high-quality teachers. Other programs and services could also be impacted.

If Noblesville Schools had additional safety measures in place would they have prevented the May 25 shooting?

There are no easy answers or solutions that can promise to keep kids safe. School safety is a complex issue. It’s hard to speculate on what may have been different on May 25 with other factors in play. We’re committed to working together with law enforcement, community leaders, parents and the overall community to protect kids.

How did you come up with the specific tax rate you’re asking for?

The district carefully assessed the long-term costs associated with the needed safety and teacher compensation enhancements.

How does our referendum request compare to those of other area districts?

Several other area communities have supported referendums for their school districts. Each district evaluates its own unique budget needs and challenges, and differing factors come into play because rates are based on assessed home values in the community as a whole. Also, each district gets different funding per student from the state. Noblesville Schools does feel strongly that it needs to increase the current rate to provide increased safety services and teacher compensation.

Why aren’t we having a capital referendum?

Our current referendum is an operating referendum and we are asking that it be expanded. Teacher compensation and the majority of our safety enhancements are best addressed through operating funds. We anticipate that we will have some construction projects related to safety and we plan to fund those through a loan (bond) rather than a capital referendum. A construction loan will not increase property tax.

You May be Thinking
You may be thinking– this referendum is really about a new football stadium.

The safety of students and staff is the district’s top priority. Referendum dollars will not be used to pay for athletics facilities.

You may be thinking– Noblesville Schools would have plenty of money if they didn’t buy iPads for all their students.

The distribution of iPads has been completed without any additional taxpayer funding. In fact, the current technology strategy has actually generated cost savings by eliminating computer labs (that are now being used for additional classroom space without new construction), reducing spending on paper, printers and copying, and eliminating some costly print curriculum materials. Parents also contribute to the cost through textbook fees. Additionally, the Indiana Department of Education has provided the district with grant dollars to support eLearning initiatives.

You may be thinking– schools in wealthy areas like ours have plenty.

The state provides less money per student for districts with fewer low-income students. This means schools in wealthy areas actually receive less state funding. The state did adjust its funding formula recently to provide additional funding, but it is still not at previous levels.

When the state decreased school funding and implemented property tax caps, funds for Noblesville Schools were significantly reduced. Since then, Noblesville Schools has lost tens of millions of dollars in funding. Under this funding model, many districts that serve more affluent areas like those found in Hamilton County now receive less funding per student than other districts. Voters must now specifically support referendum requests on an ongoing basis to provide their schools with needed funding.

You may be thinking– schools should deal with budget shortfalls on their own, just like the business community has to.

It’s important for the district to manage taxpayer dollars responsibly and tighten its belt when needed, just like everyone else. When superintendent Beth Niedermeyer joined the district, she led a district-wide committee to cut $1.7 million in expenses. She has also spearheaded efforts to creatively gain efficiencies in staffing like combining administrator functions and sharing secretarial staff, as well as efficiencies in supply and resource management. As a district, Noblesville is also exploring ways to generate revenue.

However, unlike businesses, school districts have legal obligations for what must be funded, how it must be funded and how funds can be spent. Also, while districts can control expenditures to some extent, they can’t control revenue. This means they have much less flexibility than businesses to address financial challenges they face.

Also, when Noblesville Schools makes cuts to services it hurts children, and weakens Noblesville property values and economic development.

You may be thinking– Noblesville Schools would have plenty of money if it didn’t build such fancy school buildings.

Starting with new construction in 2008, the district has eliminated facility items that typically drive up expenses like grand entryways, terrazzo flooring, and special-order items. It has focused on low-maintenance/long-lasting options, durable finishes, and affordable mechanical/electrical/plumbing equipment that provide a solid return on investment. The district has also been able to avoid over a million dollars a year in energy costs through energy conservation efforts.

You may be thinking– Noblesville Schools would have plenty of money if it just cut back on compensation, especially for administrators.

The accomplished Noblesville Schools staff is at the heart of what makes the schools so successful. It’s critically important to pay a competitive salary so the district can ensure it’s able to recruit and retain the best talent for students and the community.

The district carefully compares administrator salaries to those of other area schools, and Noblesville administrator salaries are comparable.

Like other large, complex organizations, Noblesville Schools leaders require specialized professional skill sets to successfully address the significant “behind the scenes” responsibilities and challenges they manage. Like teachers, administrators serve students and the community at a lower compensation rate than what comparable private sector work would command.

Noblesville’s average teacher salaries are among the lowest in the area. In some cases, our teachers are making $10,000 less than equivalent teachers in neighboring districts. This situation needs to be addressed as we continue to lose teachers to surrounding school districts who can pay them more. Teacher salaries continue to decline nationally, while demands on teachers continue to increase.

You may be thinking—where can I learn more?

Noblesville School superintendent Beth Niedermeyer will be hosting public information sessions as detailed below. Please plan to attend to learn more and get answers to questions you may have.

August 13, 2018 (7PM) Ivy Tech Noblesville
August 16, 2018 (7PM) Forest Park Inn Noblesville
August 20, 2018 (7PM) Noblesville High School
August 23, 2018 (7PM) Noble Crossing Elementary
August 27, 2018 (7PM) Noblesville East Middle School
August 30, 2018 (7PM) Hinkle Creek Elementary
September 5, 2018 (7PM) North Elementary
September 6, 2018 (7PM) White River Elementary
September 11, 2018 (7PM) Noblesville West Middle School
September 12, 2018 (7PM) Hazel Dell Elementary
September 17, 2018 (7PM) Stony Creek Elementary
September 24, 2018 (7PM) Promise Road Elementary
September 25, 2018 (7PM) Ivy Tech Noblesville
October 1, 2018 (7PM) Forest Park Inn Noblesville

If you’d like to schedule an additional referendum meeting for your group or organization, please contact Karen Park at 317.773.3171