TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Vigo County voters will decide the fate of its three high schools on Tuesday during the Indiana primary election.
After years of community meetings and forums, Tuesday’s election will wrap up the high school saga. Voters will decide whether to invest $261 million in property taxes over 22 years in its high schools, or look for other options.
VCSC Superintendent Dr. Rob Haworth said that a ‘Yes’ vote on Tuesday goes just beyond high schools. Haworth acknowledged that middle and elementary schools could also use patchwork. He said the referendum would allow them to use regularly budgeted dollars to help those buildings as well.
“It allows us not to divert money away from our elementary schools or our middle schools,” Haworth said.
Last week, the Vigo County School Board passed a motion that would end the current operation referendum three years early if the high school referendum passes on Tuesday. Haworth said that this would ease any financial burden of the high school referendum.
Many critics of the high school referendum cite the $261 million price tag as a big reason for them voting ‘No’.
Steve Ellis, Owner of Top Guns, is one of those critics.
Ellis acknowledged that VCSC needs better high schools and said the quality of buildings have been on the decline for years. However, he questions previous decisions made by school corporation leadership.
“Whether it’s the school corporation administration or the superintendent himself,” Ellis explained. “We’re not comfortable giving them $261 million dollars of our money to apply as they deem necessary without more oversight.”
Transparency is also a key issue for Ellis and others who oppose. He cited occasions where he felt the school corporation could’ve shown more transparency such as its move to its new headquarters in West Terre Haute.
“We need to have a little bit more oversight on it so that we can make sure that decisions aren’t being made that aren’t in the public’s best interest,” Ellis said.
Although he opposes the referendum, Ellis said if voters choose ‘Yes’, that the community should work together to make sure that the money is used properly.
“If it gets approved,” Ellis explains. “We need to figure out the best and most efficient way to put that $261 million to use so that we can get the most that we can out of our budget.”
Reversely, the possibility of a ‘No’ votes looms for VCSC. If that is ultimately what community members decide, Haworth fears that the band-aid fixes that he wanted to avoid could be the school corporation’s reality.
“What my recommendation would possibly be to the school board is we need to begin patching immediately,” Haworth stated. “We need to be patching those infrastructure systems that do not work.”