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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:00 am

NACS gives new-school tax outlook

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Estimated maximum annual tax impact of Northwest Allen County Schools' proposed $33.98 million referendum:

• $100,000 home – $41.76

• $150,000 home – $83.19

• $173,300 home – $102.50

• $200,000 home – $124.63

• $250,000 home – $166.07

• 1 acre agricultural land – $2.36

• 100 acres of agricultural land – $235.88

• $100,000 commercial/rental property – $127.50

For owners of a $200,000 home in Northwest Allen County Schools district, a new $31 million elementary school could add up to an extra $10 a month – about $124 a year – on their property taxes.

This scenario and others were detailed Wednesday during a school board meeting at Huntertown Elementary School.

The setting – a portable fifth-grade classroom – illustrated why the 7,500-student district is moving toward a May 8 referendum.

Northwest Allen has gained about 500 elementary students since 2009-10 and expects to add nearly 350 more by 2022-23, a recent demographic study found.

Huntertown added two portable classrooms this year to accommodate growth and plans to add two more next year, Superintendent Chris Himsel said.

The portable unit looked like a typical classroom. It was decorated with educational posters and standard furnishings – a white board, a projector and pull-down maps. Visitors rang a doorbell to get in, and restrooms were available inside Huntertown school, a few steps away.

Board President Kent Somers described it as “kind of a cool place” but noted reservations about being stuck in portables forever.

The mobile structures aren't intended as a permanent solution, Himsel has said. Compared with permanent classrooms, he has said, they are more vulnerable to severe weather and wear and tear.

Building an eighth elementary school is the district's desired solution, but it depends on voters supporting a referendum.

Referendums can help school districts fund major facilities projects, such as new construction and renovations. Property taxes approved by voters through referendums are not subject to property tax caps.

The referendum likely will include nearly $3 million in safety and efficiency improvements district-wide for a total project cost of $33.98 million.

Retiring debt will help offset the new debt.

For taxpayers with homes at the district's median home value of $173,300, the maximum tax impact is estimated at $8.54 monthly, or $102.50 annually.

For a $200,000 home, the maximum impact is estimated at $10.39 monthly. The monthly impact is almost $7 for a $150,000 home.

The impact on taxpayers could be zero for those below the tax cap.

The meeting, which included a hearing on the referendum, elicited questions from a Huntertown resident curious about the new school's location.

It is premature to announce, Himsel said, noting negotiations and other factors prevented him from saying more.

Another public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Dec. 18 in the NACS Board Room, which is accessible through Door 3 at Perry Hill Elementary School.

asloboda@jg.net