Oregon-Davis Superintendent Discusses Upcoming Referendum with Hamlet Town Council

Oregon-Davis School Superintendent Dr. Don Harman went to the Hamlet Town Council Wednesday to spread the word about the upcoming school referendum. If approved, the measure would add a property tax of up to 29 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for an eight-year period. It would replace a 19-cent tax that’s set to expire in 2019.

Harman said the school corporation has a limited number of options. “There’s a lot of people saying, ‘Well, Oregon-Davis just needs to close.’ That’s not an option,” Harman said. “If you look in the newspaper, if you look at what’s happening in Gary, if you look at what’s happening in Muncie, the state takes over those schools. We don’t want the state to come in and take over the school. That’s what would happen before we just close the doors. The second thing I’ve heard out there is ‘Why doesn’t Oregon-Davis just consolidate?’ I’ve already had conversations with Knox and John Glenn, and they have no interest.”

The proposed tax would raise an estimated $600,000 per year for educational and operational expenses, like teacher salaries. If the referendum fails to pass, Harman said Oregon-Davis would have to borrow money, and that may not be a better deal for taxpayers. “I can get a bond for $1.8 million, but the tax rate would be anywhere between 15 cents to 35 cents, depending on what the interest rates are and depending on if I want to stretch the loan out for three years or 20 years,” he explained. “Now remember, I can only get a bond for $1.8 million. So what will have to happen over an eight-year period of time, I may have to do that two or three times.”

Hamlet Town Council President Dave Kesvormas noted that schools have less flexibility than towns do, when it comes to moving money between funds, although Harman noted that unused money can be placed in a Rainy Day Fund. Harman added that Oregon-Davis takes advantage of grant funding, but there are limits on how schools can use it. “Typically, your grants are for professional development, possibly for enrichment courses and things like that,” he said, “but not necessarily for your operations.”

Council members Connie Bailey and Dave Kesvormas voiced their support for Oregon-Davis. “I don’t want to lose the school here,” Bailey said. “I mean, that’s, for us, a good draw to bring people here because of the school.

“That’s why we’re talking about building houses,” Kesvormas added. “More roofs, more taxes, more students.”

Harman said he’s been meeting with various groups and individuals, to encourage people to vote and make sure they understand what they’re voting for.