Rosie Washington, left, and Dr. Paige McNulty

Gary schools' Referendum Oversight Committee in development stage

Contributed By:The 411 News

McNulty looking for a cross-mix of Gary residents

During Rosie Washington's term as a Gary school board member, voters turned down 2 attempts to increase property taxes, in 2015 and 2016.

"Apparently we didn't work hard enough," Washington said to the crowd gathered Monday morning for Coffee & Conversation with Dr. Paige McNulty, Manager of the Gary Community School Corporation at J's Breakfast Club.

In 2020, they worked harder.

The referendum passed by an overwhelming 4,700 vote margin. Almost as soon as the referendum was approved in August for the November election, outreach began to the Gary community in forums like Monday's that helped tell the school district's story and why the referendum was needed.

Voters approved a property tax increase giving the schools an extra $71.2 million over 8-years.

"This is a huge moment for the school district and city of Gary, truly transformational. I can't thank everyone enough for all their support and who helped get the word out," Dr. McNulty said.

The increase will appear on the Spring 2021 installment of Gary property owners' tax bills due in May.

"There will soon be an application form on the website for the Referendum Oversight Committee," Dr. McNulty said. "We are in the process of defining what the application will look like, the criteria and making sure it doesn't turn into a political thing."

"I want a cross-mix of people invested in our schools, invested for the right reason and who want to see us move forward in the right direction," McNulty said. Committee members will be Gary residents and report to the public on how referendum revenue is collected and spent.

Referendum dollars won't be seen until the June 2021 disbursement from the Lake County Treasurer's Office.

When the committee was announced in September, McNulty said it would include representatives from the local business community, the faith-based community, elected officials, and labor groups, as well as students and parents and caregivers.

The committee will be created before the funds are received in June.

The return of students to school buildings is not foreseeable because of the COVID-19 surge, McNulty said. “I meet with the Lake County superintendents on a regular basis. About 26 of us have discussions every week. Every district is different and at this point, my team doesn’t think it is safe to open.”

Story Posted:11/11/2020

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