The Mishawaka school board voted 4-1 to approve a resolution supporting a $28 million school improvement referendum Tuesday night.
It’s the first step toward getting the measure on a special election ballot Nov. 5.
The proposal would provide funding for changes the board says go beyond just aesthetics. They say the infrastructure at schools -- such as roofing, parking lots and boilers – is deteriorating.
“The fire alarm systems, several in our schools are outdated,” said Business Manager Randy Squadroni. “We can't get parts for them.”
Replacing those dated alarm systems alone would cost $45,000 for each school.
The largest chunk of money from the 20-year referendum would go toward improving technology in classrooms and computer labs. Some Mishawaka students are currently working on computers that are nearly 8 years old – ancient in the digital world.
“If we don’t pass this now, we're going to see these schools fall into further disrepair,” said concerned parent Matthew Boulac. “One good windstorm and you have a leaky roof in a lot of these schools.”
Several other residents spoke out in support of the referendum during the meeting.
But, School board member Jeffrey Emmons voted against the resolution, citing concerns about the burden it would place on taxpayers.
“I feel Mishawaka property owners are already well-taxed and the referendum only needs to address emergency issues,” he said.
The measure would cost residents with a home valued at $150,000 about $192 extra per year.
The proposed referendum will now enter the petition phase before the county election board makes a decision on whether it qualifies for the November ballot.
If the question is approved, the final decision on whether or not Mishawaka schools will get the needed improvements will be up to voters.