The first referendum: MSD of Lawrence Township proposes tax for school renovations


Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township Supt. Shawn Smith introduced the district’s first construction referendum at the State of the Schools event in February. The district is already creating renderings for the proposed projects, even though the referendum won’t be voted on until the November general election.

The referendum is for $191 million, $161 million of which will be allocated to renovation and updates to the two high schools and $30 million will be allocated to Forest Glen, Brook Park, Winding Ridge and Oaklandon elementary schools and the four early learning centers.

The referendum is proposed at $.2499 per $100 of assessed value.

At the State of the Schools, Smith said the state annually provides approximately $111 million in funding to MSDLT, which cover day-to-day operation costs. However, because of circuit breakers and tax caps, passage of a construction referendum is required for renovations. Referendum dollars aren’t limited by tax caps or circuit breakers.

Chief Financial Officer Michael Shreves said Lawrence Central High School hasn’t been updated since 1993, and Lawrence North High School hasn’t been renovated since it was built in 1975.

“The high schools are a total renovation. That means heating and air conditioning, everything top-to-bottom, side-to-side, front-to-back, if that makes sense,” Shreves said. “Everything — classrooms, offices, a more secure entry like we have done in our elementary schools to make it more safe and secure for the students.”

Both high schools have original heating and cooling systems.

“You can be in one room and you need a jacket on and you go to the very next room and you almost need short sleeves and shorts in the same building on the same day,” Shreves said. “The heat and air conditioning system is original equipment in both buildings.”

Shreves said renovations to the elementary schools won’t be as extensive.

“We are looking at traffic patterns for parent drop-off and bus drop-off to make that a safer process,” he said. “(For the elementary schools) we are still going to get heating and air conditioning, a face lift on the classrooms and look at traffic patterns again, separate the parents and buses, and again safety and security for the entrance.”

If the referendum passes, Shreves said he expects construction to begin in June 2020. In order to not disturb students during the school year, a three-story addition for Lawrence Central adjacent to 56th Street will be constructed first, along with a three-story addition next to Hague Road for Lawrence North. Students will be moved to the additions when the renovations begin.

If passed, the referendum tax wouldn’t be collected until 2021. Shreves said if the referendum passes, the district will alert the public about the pending tax as 2021 nears.

If the referendum doesn’t pass, Shreves said the district will have to complete the construction projects in small chunks in the financial amount the state allows, which is $25 million per year. Or, Shreves said, the district might propose another referendum in the future.

If the current proposal passes, construction is expected to take about three years.

Because MSDLT plays hosts to sporting events and other extracurricular activies each year, Smith said the renovations are important for aesthetic as well as practical reasons.

“Every Friday and Saturday night, we are the host to people all over the state of Indiana,” he said. “They compete against us, and it’s a sense of pride. So, how do we do this? We have to decide how we are going to go forward renovating those buildings. We are going to ask the community, and we have never done this for the community. We are going to ask the community for a construction referendum to renovate those buildings.”

With the renovations, Smith said he wants to get rid of the district’s portable classrooms.

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CIG COVER 0504 Referendum3
A rendering of the proposed renovations to the Brook Park Elementary entrance.

If passed, what will I pay for the construction referendum?

Lawrence Township’s median home price is $153,600. For someone who owns a $153,600 home, they would pay $14.08 a month if the referendum is passed. For a $150,000 home, a taxpayer  would pay $13.59 a month. For a $300,000 home, a taxpayer would pay $33.89 a month.