You have questions, we have answers! Please read the responses to these Frequently Asked Questions. We will be adding additional questions and answers as they come it, so check back often. If you have a question, send it to Dr. Scott Robison, Superintendent, at email@example.com.
Is Zionsville Community Schools a good steward of taxpayer dollars?
YES! We have both external and internal evidence to prove the excellent stewardship we offer taxpayers for tax dollars invested in our local schools.
- Standard & Poor’s upgraded our credit rating in 2018 to “AA.” This is the highest level credit rating S & P has assigned to any public school district in the State of Indiana. Only one other school district in the state has this same rating (Carmel). ZCS holds this highest credit rating while receiving the lowest state funding amount on a per pupil basis of any school district in the state (a fact of which S & P was aware when they upgraded our rating).
- In the last half of 2018, the Indiana State Board of Accounts, the audit agency for the State of Indiana, issued approximately 175 audit reports on public school districts in the state. ZCS was one of only six school districts audited which received a perfectly clean audit report with no audit findings or exceptions.
- Although one of the most rapidly growing school district in the state, ZCS has issued no new construction debt since 2005.
- ZCS successfully refinanced its debt in 2014, saving $13.1 million. The refinancing enabled ZCS to lower its tax rate by approximately 20% and to set in motion a long-range strategic plan to ensure tax rate stability at the new reduced school tax rate for at least the ensuing 20 years.
- For 2019, which is the fifth year of our twenty-year plan, our tax rate of $1.2980 remains almost exactly equal to our long-term target rate of $1.30.
Is the school district meeting its mission of educating students?
- Zionsville Community Schools had a 98.2% graduation rate for the Class of 2018.
- Sixty-three percent of 2018 graduates earned an academic honors or technical honors diploma.
- Nearly two-thirds of 2018 graduates achieved Advanced Placement college credit, for which ZCHS has earned state and national recognition for many years running.
- From 12 to 18 Zionsville Community Schools' students are named National Merit Finalists each year.
- Graduates of the Class of 2018 were offered more than $13 million in scholarship money in 2018.
- Our schools are routinely rated as Four-Star Schools by the state each year; (number) of our schools won the coveted National Blue Ribbon school award.
- The May 2019 ranking of the nation’s high schools placed Zionsville as number two in Indiana (ranked number one is a low enrollment, non-comprehensive HS in Evansville).
What challenges do we face?
In short, population growth in our area is filling our schools. The population of our communities has roughly doubled since 2010. Enrollment in the school district has increased and continues to grow. Here are some details:
- Zionsville’s population was 13,444 in 2010 and 25,810 in 2018; The population in Whitestown has grown from 3,151 in 2010 to 8,179 in 2017.
- During the same period, enrollment in ZCS increased from 5,612 to 6,983, an increase of 24.4% in nine years.
- A demographic study by the IU Kelley School of Business projects 200+ new students each year for the coming decade
- Facilities studies show that all of our elementary schools will be full by 2023. Some will be at or over capacity much sooner, with the one projected to hit 105% of capacity by the 2019-2020 school year.
- ZCHS has already outgrown hallways, cafeteria space and lockers, and is nearly out of classroom space.
- ZCS remains the lowest funded school district in Indiana, receiving the lowest state funding amount on a per pupil basis of any school district in the state.
What if the referendum is not approved?
Construction of schools takes time. The ballot permission required adds to this timeline. If our referendum for construction fails, we will have more immediate and frequent rounds of redistricting, higher class sizes (because of no new spaces in which to place 200+ new students each year), and portable classrooms.
If the operating referendum is not approved, the current levy would stay in place through 2021. Facility
construction could not proceed due to uncertainty about the district’s ability to staff the new spaces due to operating referendum funding that ends in 2021 if not renewed. Spring of 2022 would bring massive program cuts and loss of approximately one-third of our professional staff. Multiple rounds of school attendance area changes and higher class sizes would begin in the spring of 2020.
Can the school district help slow growth in the district?
For many years ZCS has been as proactive as possible and sought to keep the community and the local
governmental officials informed about the projected effects of new subdivisions and housing developments as they were proposed. ZCS now has NON-VOTING advisory memberships on the local redevelopment commissions to provide information and make sure the school district’s viewpoint is heard on local matters. However, Zionsville Community Schools has absolutely NO JURISDICTION in any decisions of land use, housing starts, zoning, etc. ZCS CANNOT SLOW GROWTH! Our job is to serve students who live here, not govern who lives here or how many new homes are built.
Are other districts asking for taxpayer help to build schools?
Yes. Nearby districts have proposed a variety of referenda over the last few years to assist them in building new facilities. These other plans all proposed to raise the school tax rates of properties in their communities, while the ZCS plan will actually see a slight decrease in the school portion of the tax rate thanks to sound financial management. Note that the interplay of tax rates and tax caps, coupled with varying municipal rates within ZCS will cause some tax bills to go up if these referenda pass.
What is the total cost of the referendum? Aren't taxpayers actually paying more because of interest payments?
The true cost as noted in the estimated tax impact provided by the district does include the estimated interest. Much as when a homeowner takes out a mortgage, there is the principal – the original amount borrowed – and interest payments are additional. These interest payments are factored into the total cost of the “loan” (bond repayment) which estimates the total cost of the bond (principal + interest). The estimated cost to taxpayers includes anticipated interest. The exact interest rate will be determined based on the actual sale of the bonds, which the district cannot yet do without voter authorization (i.e., a successful bond referendum on Nov. 5). Nonetheless, the cost estimates provided by the district are based on current market rates and projected bond interest rates.
Why doesn't the facilities plan include detailed drawings of the proposed renovations and additions?
Much like other construction projects, the district has drafted an estimated cost of proposed facility improvements based on needed square feet, student enrollment, and anticipated construction costs. However, with public sector construction such as public schools, the school corporation is not able to develop detailed design plans until voters approve the general project plan and authorize funding. If voters approve the referendum on Nov. 5, the district would then move into the design phase, during which conversations with teachers, students, parents and community members will inform specific details of what renovations and/or additions will be completed at each site.