IPS opponents speak out The controversial $200 million Indianapolis Public Schools plan to renovate 12 schools and pay for the repairs through the sale of property taxpayer-supported bonds faces a question of survival in the next month. IPS School 84, Joseph Bingham Elementary, is one of 12 schools slated for renovations under a controversial $200 million plan. The weeks through Dec. 30 will see a battle of dueling petitions, as supporters and opponents of the bond spread across the city with yellow petitions (in support of the bond) and blue (against). Whichever side collects the most verified signatures will prevail.
Leading the opposition to the bond, the blue petitions, is local activist Carl Moldthan, executive director of Taxpayers for Accountability in Government. Moldthan said there were several reasons for his opposition to the bond, chief among them a belief that IPS has not acted responsibly.
“No. 1 is the fact that IPS has neglected their schools. If you or I did anything like that, if we owned a daycare center that was kept that badly, we’d be put in jail for neglect, if they say they’re as bad as they say they are,” Moldthan said. “No. 2, this city is facing some serious, serious problems in the future, with the budget cuts, sewer problems, police and fire pensions.”
Additionally, Moldthan said that this coming on the heels of last year’s controversial property tax reassessment is a double whammy.
“The people in this community just can’t handle that. I read an article in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday that said that Indiana is one of the states that’s considering something to control the property taxes because they’re getting so high,” Moldthan said. “I’ve already seen it: People are being driven out of this community because of the higher property taxes. They can move into any county surrounding us and get lower property taxes. And if people can do it, businesses can do it, and that means lost jobs.”
Moldthan has been acting as a watchdog on IPS for many years, and organized and served on an efficiency committee for the school board in 1990.
“There wasn’t one of the recommendations that were followed up on,” Moldthan said. “They should have been doing some of this maintenance as time went on, and instead they put it off and got us into this ... There’s a lot of places they could save.”
Moldthan also said he’s not convinced that the proposed improvements would have an effect worth the cost.
“If you look at the 14 schools that are on President Bush’s No Child Left Behind list, five of them are air conditioned, four of them aren’t, and five have partial air conditioning, oddly enough in teacher’s lounges and principal’s offices. The five that have air conditioning aren’t doing that well or they wouldn’t be on the list.”
One of Moldthan’s supporters and a signer of the petition is Republican City-County Council member and local business owner Jim Bradford, who said he does not necessarily oppose the spending but believes the time is just not right.
“What’s happened is the 801 Tax District got really hit very badly in this tax reassessment thing that happened last year,” Bradford said. “People’s taxes in some places doubled, tripled or quadrupled. I’m not against the whole thing that’s being done; it’s just that it’s not in the right time for all these people who got really killed last year.”
Although the City-County Council has no direct control over IPS’ finances, Bradford said that irresponsible tax policies do have an impact on IPS’ situation.
“I’ve also voted against tax incentives that the mayor and Democrat council have passed for downtown,” Bradford said. “When you give a tax abatement, you’re taking money directly away from IPS. If the mayor gives a $20 million tax break to the Simons, that’s $10 million away from IPS right there.”
It’s all a matter of bad timing, Bradford said.
“If they approve this, it’s not like the kids are going to get air conditioning next year,” Bradford said. “Right now I think Indianapolis is in a very difficult position. We made some very difficult choices on the city and county levels to cut services, and we’re trying to limp through it until the economy comes back up. It’s a timing issue by the school board and it’s just come at the wrong time. My personal opinion is that I hope the economy picks up this summer and we can pay for it then.”
For more information on opposition to the bond issue, including TAG’s “10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Pay the IPS Bond,” check out www.hoosiertaxes.com.