What is a referendum?  In plain language, a referendum is the process where the governing body of a political unit (such as a district, county, or town) puts a proposed law or policy on the election ballot, to allow the voters to decide if it should become law.  “Referenda” is the plural form of referendum.


What are some issues that may be decided by referendum?  Many issues can be decided by referendum.  The most frequent question is probably whether a small additional property tax should be assessed to fund schools (either for new facilities or operating costs), although tax increases for transit, construction, and other projects are also common.


What referendum is going to be on our ballots this May?  The Department of Local Government Finance approved the following language:

“For the seven (7) calendar year or years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the School City of East Chicago impose a property tax rate that does not exceed thirty cents ($0.30) on each one hundred dollars ($100.00) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other property taxes imposed by the school corporation for the purpose of funding teaching positions, staff positions, and educational programming?”    


What does that language mean?  In simpler terms, this question is asking whether you agree that individuals or corporations who own property in East Chicago should pay an extra thirty cents for each $100.00 of the property’s value each year for seven years.  This money would be used to pay for teachers, staff, and educational programs.  One thing the definition does not make clear is that the tax applies to assessed value minus the deductions.


If I own a home, how would this affect me?  In practical terms, if you own a residence valued at $80,000 that has a homestead and supplemental homestead deductions, you would pay an extra $68 per year (which is the same as $5.67 per month) in property taxes, in addition to the property taxes you currently pay.  This would begin in 2018 and continue for seven years.  This extra payment would go directly to the City of East Chicago schools.  To see how this referendum would affect your property, you can check the on-line calculator at:


Why is the school corporation asking me to approve this?  The state instituted a cap on the amount of property taxes that a property owner can be charged, which can limit the amount of money available to schools.  Property taxes approved in a referendum are not limited by the property tax cap.  This provides extra revenue to the schools.