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Web letter by Roger Thornton: Taxpayers are losers in charter-school building accommodation

The decision by the Indiana legislature to reduce the time school districts must legally hold unused school facilities for potential ownership by charter schools from four to two years appears to be applauded by some. I remain puzzled by this requirement.

How is it that a school facility planned and justified to the community by an elected Board of School Trustees, paid for by every taxpayer (both individuals and businesses), and now found to be of no further use to the school district, is by statute available without cost to an entity with no publicly elected board members with no remuneration to the school district? How and why did surplus facilities become potential gifts to a group of individuals rather than sold by bid to the highest bidder just as any other excess or obsolete equipment is sold? Why shouldn’t the taxpayers of the school corporation who made the initial investment receive the residual value of the property? Why does it become a gift to a group that has no accountability to taxpayers?

Many schools were built only after great debate and deliberation among a school corporation’s residents. The tax effect of the projects was shouldered by taxpayers to meet the needs of the children of the district. How did it become OK to gift the remaining value of the taxpayer-purchased school property, and up to two years of additional costs to maintain it, to some group that can then use it for personal gain and profit?

The adjustment to the law provides some relief from the Legislature’s mandate to school districts burdened with the costs to maintain and secure property it no longer needs. My perception is that the law benefits a private group of individuals and cheats the taxpayers who paid for the facility out of the residual value that is rightfully theirs. A bad idea made not quite as bad remains a bad idea. Which of your schools, paid for with your tax dollars, do you wish to give away?