Car line at Central

Parents line up at the end of the school day Thursday at Central Elementary School. Petitioners will make their way through car lines to get signatures for the new school and repairs.

Note: This story has been changed to more accurately identify who may sign the petition. Any registered voter who resides in the district, regardless of if they own property, and anyone who pays property tax in the district, regardless of if they reside there, may sign the petition.

Lebanon Schools are scrambling to collect more than 525 signatures by Tuesday.

The signatures are required for the Lebanon Community Schools Corporation to get a capital referendum on the May 3 ballot. A referendum is just a question put to voters via a ballot.

If the referendum reaches the ballot, voters would determine in May if they will fund a $102.6 million plan to: renovate portions of the middle and high schools; replace Central Elementary; and renovate and expand in the district’s three remaining elementary schools.

Funds would come from property taxes, but property owners would pay no more than they do now.

“The rate is not going up because, as this new debt comes into the tax rate, old debt is being retired that this replaces,” Kent Frandsen, district attorney, said Friday.

The district has been planning more than two years for the project and has taken into account new housing developments on the city’s north and south sides and especially in the Whitestown area. The plan accommodates more than 700 new students district-wide over 10 years.

Those who sign the petition are not voting for the tax rate, they are agreeing that the question should be on the May 3 ballot for voters to decide. Petitions are due to the Boone County Clerk’s office Wednesday. Signatories must be registered voters or own property in Center, Worth, or Perry townships. Petitions are available at Lebanon school buildings and are circulating door-to-door via volunteers.

Central Elementary, the oldest of the district’s four elementary schools and the least technologically capable, was built in 1951. Harney was built in 1957; Perry Wroth in 1965; and Stokes, the district’s newest school built in 2003, will be 25 years old when the project starts in 2023.

The high school was built in 1957 and the middle school in 1975. The combined total for improvements in those buildings is an estimated $10.6 million.

The plan calls for a new Central Elementary built at an estimated cost of $31.8 million near the high and middle schools.

Of those to be renovated and expanded, Perry-Worth will get 12 new classrooms, a new cafeteria and kitchen, and more at an estimated cost of 16.8 million. Harney’s estimated $11 million renovation would include an office renovation, spaces that improve security, and a STEM maker space. Stokes would get a remodeled media center and one-one-one teaching spaces for an estimated $1.5 million.

The projects include far more improvements than listed here that would “provide an enriched environment for enhancing learning opportunity and achievement,” the district posted on its website, https://www.leb.k12.in.us/referendum. The project also focuses on improving safety and security.

None of the funds raised would go to athletics or athletics facilities, Superintendent Dr. Jon Milleman said during a school board referendum hearing Tuesday, during which the board approved the referendum. Tuesday’s was the second of two hearings required before the district seeks signatures.

A video of Tuesday’s hearing, complete with financial breakdowns, architectural drawings, and maps, is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8FPZ4b0VNM.

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