HAMILTON —In their first public meeting since the Nov. 5 election, members of the Hamilton Community Schools board Monday reflected on the successful outcome of a referendum that will ensure the district’s schools remain open.

Voters in the school district gave a resounding “yes” in the referendum to continue imposing a property tax of up to 44 cents per $100 of property value to operate the schools. The referendum appeared on the Nov. 5 ballot. The supplemental tax rate will continue for eight years and was deemed necessary to ensure the schools’ doors stay open.

“A lot of thank-yous,” Superintendent Tony Cassel said during Monday’s meeting. He thanked the board “for entrusting me to put Hamilton’s best foot forward.”

Cassel said supporters worked tirelessly to educate members of the public about the referendum.

A total of 804 votes were cast in favor of the referendum, with 344 opposed. Of those, 631 voters living in the Steuben County portion of the district cast “yes” votes, while 268 voted “no.” In the portion of the district that lies in Franklin Township of northeast DeKalb County, 173 voters were in favor of the rate, while 76 were opposed.

In a failed referendum one year ago, residents voted against increasing property taxes by 71 cents per $100 of property value.

Cassel said the district has been fiscally conservative and built up a cash balance, which allowed it to request continuing with the 44-cent rate rather than an inflated rate.

“Now, I feel like the real work begins,” Cassel said.

Board President Mark Gould said he agreed the referendum’s success was a result of a team effort, but offered special commendation to Cassel.

“I’ve been in this community for about 16 years now. I don’t know anybody else in this community that could have pulled this off,” Gould said. “On behalf of myself and the board, we want you to know that we appreciate it.”

“You said it!” board member Jeremy Hill agreed.

Also Monday night, Cassel reported the district has received four donations: $500 from Becky and Don Norris for cheerleading uniforms; $1,500 from Dr. Teresa Smith for the music department; and $500 from an anonymous donor and $300 from the Hamilton United Methodist Church for the cafeteria’s Angel Fund to assist students in need.

In personnel matters, the board approved a 75-cent increase in the hourly rates for noncertified support employees.

The board recognized Avril Garcia, Heath Getts and Jeremiah ZehrStetzel as the district’s November students of the month.

Cassel reported a representative from the district would be attending Tuesday’s Red for Ed statewide rally held by the Indiana State Teachers Association in Indianapolis to ask legislators to support public education.

Cassel said the district’s teachers association met and decided that not all Hamilton teachers would attend the rally.

“We’re a small school. The impact if they all were to be gone would be tremendous,” Cassel said.

Cassel said the teachers appreciate the support shown by the community and would be wearing red in support of public education on Tuesday.

“Educators will be well represented at the Statehouse,” Cassel added.

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