South Bend Schools pass resolution to deannex Greene Township from district

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind., --- Both John Glenn and South Bend Schools passed annexation agreements to move Greene Township to the John Glenn school district.

The South Bend School Board passed a resolution Monday night to move forward with the disannexation of Greene Township from its district into the neighboring district. The John Glenn School Corporation voted unanimously for the change during its school board meeting Tuesday night.

Per Indiana law, both districts had to agree to the move with nearly identical resolutions, which they have done. 

The decision for Greene Township to leave the South Bend Community School Corporation has been debated for years because of the very different impacts it could have on the districts along and families. On Monday, however, the South Bend School Board still voted to move forward with the process.

“Greene Township would de-annex from the South Bend School Corporation so they would no longer be in the South Bend school district. Their district would be the neighboring district which is John Glenn,” said Kareemah Fowler, the CFO & Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance for the South Bend schools.

Greene is St. Joseph County’s most southern township that first looked to split from the district after Liberty Township did so back in the late 1970s.

The calls were reignited in recent years after the SBCSC closed down Greene School in 2018 over budget issues and declining enrollment.

“There is really some unique history here between our two districts and then you add to the changing in Indiana code that allows school choice and open enrollment where a lot of families in the Greene township area have chosen to come to John Glenn,” said Christopher Winchell, the Superintendent of the John Glenn School Corporation.

Right now, out of 400 families in Greene Township around half already attend John Glenn schools, while just 72 students attend South Bend Schools and the remainder attend private or charter schools.

“The student enrollment that comes from that township that’s really what spearheaded the whole process,” explained Winchell. “Because of the farming community that exists there in Greene Township, many families have chosen to educate their kids at John Glenn specifically for that agriculture programming that we offer.”

While John Glenn schools could see more than a million dollars in tax revenue with the transfer South Bend Schools could lose roughly $1.3mil in property taxes.

A loss that’s not ideal for a district that’s already facing struggles.

“I cannot say that this is not going to add to the existing struggles, it will, but we want to do everything that we can for our district, students, and families to make sure that this is a smooth transition,” said Fowler. “We recognized early off that this was probably something, working with our legislators this was probably something that was going to happen so you want to get ahead of it and be proactive and ensure we can negotiate how it happens,” Fowler explained.

The transfer would not only impact the two school districts, but taxpayers as well.

"We've made sure that the taxpayers that were originally a part of the district that voted for the referendum they will continue pay for the referendum and the debt service until 2028 because we felt that was only right,” said Fowler.

The move is something that not all board members stood by in Monday’s meeting, with three members voting down the resolution.

“This is not voluntary. It’s thinly vailed political bullying, and this is not in our corporation’s best interest,” said School Board member Stephanie Ball in Monday night’s meeting.

Overall, both districts said the resolution agrees that current South Bend students would remain in the district with both schools providing transportation to students in Greene Township.

Just one step both districts are taking to help make the potential transfer as easy as possible for families.

“We will see an initial tax reduction then there will be some increases overtime to our operating expenses. Which would allow us to also not only increase operational services like transportation, but it will also allow us to increase student programming services,” said Winchell.

"Our next step is getting letters out to those 72 families and say hey while this is going on this is what it means for you, and you will not be impacted. You'll stay enrolled in South Bend schools,” added Fowler.

The resolution still has to pass at John Glenn’s school board meeting Tuesday.

If that does happen the proposed annexation will be advertised in the local newspaper for two weeks, during that time taxpayers have a chance to oppose it.

If no one opposes it and it gets both state and federal approval the annexation could go into effect by Jan. 2024.

Click here to read the full resolution. 

The John Glenn School Corporation voted to annex Greene Township, and the vote passed 7-0. 

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