Homestead project gets board’s OK

March 20, 2019

No discussion or debate was necessary Tuesday before the Southwest Allen County Schools board unanimously approved a resolution that sets in motion a potential $169 million Homestead High School construction project.

The district, however, won’t know until late April whether it can proceed without seeking voter support.

Taxpayers can trigger a referendum by collecting 500 signatures within a 30-day window. A legal notice set to publish Monday will initiate that period, business manager Jim Coplen told the school board.

Administrators are unaware of opposition toward the project, which will replace Homestead with a new building on the same site at a maximum cost of $169 million. Taxpayers shouldn’t be affected if the project is done without a referendum.

Referendums can help school districts fund major facilities projects, such as new construction and renovations.

“We haven’t heard any negative or opposition that’s out there,” Coplen said after the meeting, noting the district has held several public meetings about Homestead’s future since fall 2017.

Nobody opposed the plans during public hearings held Tuesday and March 5.

Property taxes approved by voters through referendums are not subject to property tax caps.

Approval of the Homestead project through a referendum would result in tax hikes for about half of the district’s residents : those living in the Fort Wayne portion of Aboite Township. Projections show bills could increase by 704 for homes valued at 350,000, respectively.

Assuming taxpayers don’t force a referendum, the district will start assembling the design team, Coplen said.

The new Homestead would be designed for 3,000 students and range in size from 625,000 square feet to 650,000 square feet. About 2,400 students are currently enrolled.

New construction would account for 75 percent to 80 percent of the building, while the remainder would be renovated spaces. Plans also include reconfiguring drives and parking areas, among other site improvements.

Construction would begin late 2020 or early 2021 and last three to four years, administrators have said.