FORTVILLE — The Mt. Vernon referendum is still alive. Sort of.
Though it failed to win approval from voters on Election Day, the school district is hoping a new method of giving will generate some funds for MV based on the referendum’s proposed tax increase.
Contributors can log on to the school’s website, and knowing the assessed value of their home and property, can find the amount that they would have paid in additional taxes if the referendum had been approved. They can then send in the money.
Were the referendum successful, a residential property valued at $178,000 would have been required to pay $70.93 in additional property taxes in 2013. The referendum was designed for a three-year interval, so the total amount of additional property taxes for that home would have been $212.79.
According to Superintendent Bill Riggs, the failure of the referendum – which lost by a margin of 57 percent to 42 percent – had many school patrons contacting the district and wondering how they could donate what they would have paid in additional taxes. After reviewing the requests, the Mt. Vernon School Board approved the program on Nov. 19.
“I had been getting phone calls and emails from people,” Riggs said.
The idea was hatched after Cumberland Town Councilman and Mt. Vernon parent Joe Siefker decided to make a $200 donation to the school in November. He had earlier pledged to give the money to the school whether the referendum failed or passed.
“At the time, I was just thinking of making the pledge,” Siefker said. “I had a sneaking suspicion that the referendum wouldn’t pass.”
Siefker was the lone voice of support at a public hearing in July, and he was almost shouted down as he advocated for the referendum. At the hearing, during which the board voted to put the referendum question on the ballot, Siefker tried to advocate his cause.
“I was the one person who got run out the door for saying yes,” Siefker said.
When he contacted the school in November, after the referendum failed, Siefker wanted to honor his pledge and told Riggs he would soon present the check. It gave school administrators the unusual idea.
“If we were ever going to do it, this was a great opportunity,” Riggs said.
The first two donors in the program were Siefker and Riggs. Those who want to participate in the volunteer effort to raise money to help reduce the school corporation’s financial deficit can now do so.
“We’ll see if we can get some other people to do the same thing,” Riggs said.
Residents who choose to donate to the school can write off the donation as a tax deduction. The school will send participants a receipt.
“See what you started?” Riggs told Siefker at the check presentation.
The thought of reneging on his pledge never crossed Siefker’s mind. He wanted to chip in the best way he could, and had always supported the referendum.
“If you’re in favor of something, stick with what you said,” Siefker said.
He drew on his experiences as a town councilman in Cumberland as a way of understanding what the current school board and the district was dealing with.
“Even with your best efforts, you can’t always explain to everyone why it’s better to do something in the long run.”
The money collected through the new program will go into the school’s general fund, which is the same location to which the money from a successful referendum would have been channeled.
“Hopefully, we started something,” Siefker said. “I know not everybody in the district can probably do it. But I’m hoping some other people can do it.”
Additional information about donating can be found at www.mvcsc.k12.in.us. Checks can be made out to Mt. Vernon
School Corporation, 1776 W. Ind. 234, Fortville IN 46040.