School City of Mishawaka to vote on multi-million dollar referendum

Published: May. 25, 2016 at 12:04 AM EDT
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Beefed up security and better roofs could be coming to Mishawaka Schools, but the fate of a $14 million referendum remains in the hands of school board members. School City of Mishawaka contracted Schmidt Associates, an Indianapolis-based architectural engineering firm, to assess facility needs district-wide. The firm determined total facility upgrades carried a $108 million dollar cost.

Enter the High Facility Needs Work Group, a cohort led by Dr. Bruce Stahly, Asst. Superintendent of Business, and Superintendent Dr. Dean Speicher.

"Our highest priority is safety and security, that's our number one," determined Speicher.

He said school entries and vestibules must be overhauled in the event an active shooter, for instance, trespasses. Other plans include installing inside locks for classrooms, updating video surveillance systems, and adding a new telephone system.

Core infrastructure also requires improvement, said added. Twin Branch Elementary School and Mishawaka High School both need roof and window repairs. A third priority is air quality. Some schools, such as Emmons and Beiger need new heating or air systems.

The three-tiered plan is an estimated $14 million dollars that would be paid over 15 years. While some Mishawaka residents may bemoan the notion of a tax increase, Speicher posed this scenario:

"If want your home value to continue to stay stable or increase, you want to invest in your community and your school system. If we really want to develop a workforce that's really going to help us create jobs, [that] is going to make Mishawaka a livable community, then they're going to have invest in their school system."

The school board will vote on two possible referendums at the May 31 meeting: the question addressing the aforementioned facility needs and and a second targeting student technology, employee pay, and class size adjustments.

If the board passed both and voters approve each in the November general election, a taxpayer with a $89,900 home could pay $105 additionally per yer. The cost rises to roughly $125 extra for folks living in a home assessed at $100,000.