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Heritage project gets petition lift

Backers turn in more signatures; validation slated

Supporters of the $11.9 million Heritage kindergarten-through-12th-grade campus project turned in more petition packets than their opponents by this week’s deadline, according to voter registration officials.

Supporters and opponents of the project had until Tuesday afternoon to drop off their signature packets, or counterparts, to Allen County Voter Registration. Those in favor of the project, or the yellow side, turned in about 1,882 signatures, while those opposing the project, or the blue side, turned in 315 signatures, according to Voter Registration member Maye Johnson.

East Allen County Schools hopes to convert Heritage Junior-Senior High, a building for grades 7 through 12, to a campus that houses kindergarten through grade 12.

Typically, the fate of the project would be determined by which side collected more valid signatures, which must come from property owners or registered voters within the EACS district. But district board members have said they intend to implement the plan regardless of the outcome of the petition drive.

The petition campaign could prevent the district from borrowing money to pay for the project, in which case district officials have said money from its property tax-supported capital projects fund will be used.

Mike Clendenen, superintendent of New Haven-Adams Township Parks and Recreation, who ran the effort against the project, said he wasn’t surprised his side collected fewer signatures.

“When the board says they’re going to do it anyway, it’s hard to get people fired up to fight something they don’t agree with,” he said.

Starting Wednesday, voter registration had 15 business days to determine whether those who signed the petitions are valid – coming from registered voters from the school district.

Johnson, however, said the process should be finished by the middle of next week. The process would have been faster, she said, had voter registration not been tasked with registering voters and preparing for the May primary election.

If either side is not a clear winner, voter registration will hand over the packets to the auditor’s office, which will verify the signatures of valid property owners.

The Heritage kindergarten-through-12th-grade campus project is the second of three projects proposed as part of East Allen’s district redesign plan.

The first phase – the $10.8 million Woodlan kindergarten-through-12th-grade campus project – has already been approved through the same process. In May, voters will weigh in on the final phase – an $88 million building project in the New Haven and former Paul Harding High Hchool attendance area.

The estimated property tax impact of all three projects – about $111 million – is expected to cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $85 a year in additional property taxes. Property taxes on an 80-acre farm with an assessed value of $130,000 would increase by about $339 a year.

dhaynie@jg.net

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