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Half of local school board candidates running unopposed

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If residents want to see a change in how their local schools are being run, they’re not getting many choices for new candidates this year.

Compared to the past three elections, this year’s ballot has fewer contests and fewer overall candidates for voters to choose from.

After multiple school board races lacked contenders with just days before the filing deadline, every race has at least one candidate running.

But five of the 10 school board races on this year’s general election ballot year are unopposed. Neither candidate for the Greenwood school board is opposed. Candidates running for Clark-Pleasant’s Pleasant Township seat, Franklin’s Needham Township seat and two Edinburgh Blue River Township seats also don’t have opponents this year.

Fewer candidates total are running. A total of 20 people filed this year for 14 open positions. That’s significantly down from 2010 when 35 people sought office. For example, in 2010, 14 candidates were running for three open spots on the Center Grove school board. The race is contested again this year, but with four candidates.

“I’m kind of disappointed. Usually you have a good array,” county election board member Cindy Rapp said.

“The explanation might be that people are satisfied with the job that they’re doing.”

With few contested school board races and no county-level positions that are opposed, turnout for the fall election will likely be low, she said.

School board races typically have multiple candidates and draw more people who have strong opinions about their local schools to the polls for the fall election, Johnson County Clerk Sue Ann “Susie” Misiniec said.

School board positions also can be among the toughest, most controversial and thankless elected positions in the county, which might scare off concerned parents or longtime residents who consider running, she said.

Locally, school board members will make decisions ranging from school spending to construction. Franklin and Clark-Pleasant schools are both struggling with paying expenses and debt after losing millions in tax dollars each year due to property tax caps. Center Grove, Greenwood, Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson and Edinburgh schools have all recently taken on multimillion-dollar building or maintenance projects.

And, since the last election, school board members hired new superintendents at Greenwood, Indian Creek and Clark-Pleasant schools.

School board members also dictate how to spend millions in tax dollars each year, including more than $50 million each in Franklin, Clark-Pleasant and Center Grove districts. Half of all the property taxes paid in Johnson County goes to schools.

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