Goshen school building plans suffer set-back

The push to control property taxes in Indiana may have come to shove for the Goshen Community School System.

Today, state regulators dealt a set-back to the district's proposed $41.9 million construction plans.

While the decision wasn't the final call in the state approval process, it was a setback, and it was so disappointing that some in Goshen are seriously considering a plan B.

Today, the President of the Goshen school board said that some of the music rooms at the high school are so small that, at times, the volume of the sound generated exceeds O.S.H.A. standards for safe workplaces.

"This was not a Taj Mahal type program," said Rob Cripe who serves on the citizens task force that studied the district's building needs. "This was a very conservative, as is the Goshen community, program and it's something that's very needed for our school system."

But the need to get the $41.9 million plans off the drawing board took a back seat to financial concerns today as state regulators weighed in on the plan at a meeting in Indianapolis.

Indiana's School Property Tax Control Board entertained a motion to approve the Goshen project. Two board members voted yes, while four voted no.

"We had very good local support for the project," said Goshen School Superintendent Dr. Bruce Stahly: "It's very disappointing how we no longer have local control."

Goshen administrators assumed they were supposed to be in tune with school construction rules that are in effect today.
Planning for the project began in December of 2006, long before the latest property tax reform package was on the radar.

Now the chief of the school system wonders if he's being left to follow rules that take effect on July 1st, and require that major construction projects be approved by voter referendum.

"I think we'll begin planning now in terms of our next step, as far as how we want to proceed, whether we do want to go to a referendum or how we want to proceed," said Stahly.

"We played by the rules of the old program," said Cripe.
"We're still under the old program, but I'm guessing the state maybe is looking at what's on the horizon and saying, well maybe we need to start applying some of these situations now."

The $41.9 million plans are designed to relieve overcrowding through the construction of a new school to house fifth and sixth graders.

Much of the work planned for the high school would create additional room for the popular music program, and change the location of the administrative offices in order to improve security.

The vote by the tax control board today was merely a recommendation. The final decision rests with the Commissioner of Indiana's Department of Local Government Finance.

The deadline for a final decision is June 17th.

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