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New group urges voters to ‘Vote Yes’ on tax hike for Indianapolis schools

A new political action committee is advocating for voters to approve tax increases to raise $725 million in additional funding for the Indianapolis Public Schools.

The committee, “Vote Yes for IPS,” will be led by Lacy Johnson, a partner at the law firm Ice Miller who specializes in public affairs and gaming; Thomas King, chairman of the Center for Leadership Development, a community organization that focuses on children of color; and Patricia Payne, a longtime education advocate who has worked for the district on racial equity efforts.

“You have to take a long-term view on these things and say the kids who go to IPS deserve to have every bit as good an education as anybody at any other school district,” King told Chalkbeat.

He acknowledged that people may not want to see their property taxes increase, but he sees this as the only way for the cash-strapped district to raise more money. If both measures pass, taxpayers with houses at the district’s median value — $123,500 — would see their property taxes increase by $23.24 per month.

The district has said that without the extra money it would be in a dire financial situation: Teachers would face pay freezes, maintenance would be put off, and transportation would be cut. The referendums would provide funding for teacher raises, special education services, and building improvements.

King said the committee will likely wage a social media campaign to help spread information about the referendums.

The PAC formed last week, according to its statement of organization, two days after the school board voted to reduce the request, which had originally amounted to nearly $1 billion. The district scaled back the referendums in response to community concerns about the substantial cost to taxpayers.

Since the district announced its plans in November to ask for the tax increases, it appears no community groups have come out in public support of the referendums. The local association of real estate agents, however, has opposed the request, citing concerns about the burden on residents and a lack of information on how the money would be spent.

State law prohibits the district from advocating for the referendums.

Voters will decide on the tax levies on the May 8 ballot.