If the Center Grove school district wants to build a $10 million facility, taxpayers should have a say in whether their money is spent on it, one resident says.
That’s why Frank Rossa has started the legal process that would allow voters and residents the chance to weigh in on the plan to build a 59,500-square-foot student activities complex on the Center Grove High School campus.
Rossa picked up the paperwork needed to begin the petition and remonstrance process this week. He has until Sept. 21 to get the signatures of 100 voters or property owners in the school district who agree with him.
If he does, that will begin dueling petition drives by supporters and opponents of the project. Whoever gets the most signatures wins, either allowing the project to move forward or stopping it for at least a year.
Center Grove school officials are confident the project has enough support from the community to move forward, since families and residents asked for the center in the first place, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.
Rossa has two main concerns: First, taxpayers won’t be asked to vote on the project because it is just under the state’s requirement for a public vote. Second, is the fieldhouse truly needed?
Rossa, who works as a pipe fitter and lives in the Center Grove school district, has been talking about the project with his neighbors. After talking with about 50 people, he found no one else was in favor of the new facility, and all said the school district had better ways to spend tax dollars, he said.
But without someone starting the petition and remonstrance process, he knew they wouldn’t get a chance to have their say. Taxpayers should get to weigh in on a new facility with a $10 million price tag, but the law doesn’t require it, he said.
“If they put it on the ballot, I have zero doubt it would be shot down, and they know that as well,” Rossa said.
So, Rossa, former chairman of the Johnson County Libertarian Party, began calling state and county offices to research the petition and remonstrance process. He picked up the paperwork from the county this week and also set up a public meeting, so he could make his case to his neighbors.
“The process puts a big burden on citizens to stop it,” he said.
Rossa said he doesn’t think the new facility is needed. Schools are competing against each other for the biggest facilities, and taxpayers have to pay for them, he said.
“It’s a battle no one is going to win. Schools keep outdoing each other. Instead of building these shiny palaces, we should be focused on education,” Rossa said.
School officials have said the new activities center, which will include four basketball-sized courts and a six-lane indoor track, is needed for sports teams, academic clubs and other groups to use for practice and can also be used by classes and the robotics team for competitions.
Rossa said the school district has better ways to spend tax dollars.
“My key concern is that it probably is not the best way, the most cost effective way, to meet the needs for additional space,” he said.
Arkanoff said he has spoken to hundreds of people who support the project and have discussed why it is needed.
“When we were developing the project, it was based on community input, it was based on community support,” Arkanoff said.
If Rossa collects enough signatures to begin the petition and remonstrance process, those groups will be the ones to fight in support of the project, he said.
The school district has to follow specific rules for what it can and cannot do in that process, including not using school resources and time to support the project. So it will be up to the residents and groups who support the new center to collect the signatures needed to move it forward, Arkanoff said.
“Those community members that believe in this project and support it will have the opportunity to do what is needed to support it,” he said.
A Center Grove area resident is planning a meeting to discuss concerns over a project to build a $10 million activity center on the Center Grove High School campus. He has started the petition and remonstrance process and is looking for signatures from fellow residents.
What: Meeting for residents opposed to student activity center at Center Grove High School
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: White River Township library branch, 1664 Library Blvd., Greenwood
Here is a look at what comes next in the petition and remonstrance process:
Signatures needed: By Sept. 21, 100 signatures are needed on the paperwork to start the process.
Verification: The county will then verify that those signatures belong to either a property owner or a registered voter in the school district boundaries.
Dueling petitions: After the county verifies those signatures, the process by both sides to gather signatures begins. Both supporters and opponents will have a certain period of time to gather all the signatures they can for or against the project.
Verification: The county will then verify that each signature belongs to a property owner or voter within Center Grove schools and count up how many valid signatures each side gathered.
Winner determined: The county will determine the winner. If supporters win, the project moves forward. If opponents win, the school district must wait one year before proposing a similar or the same project again.