Next election task: Accommodating Center Grove referendum voters

More than 15,000 registered voters in unincorporated White River Township were not planning to vote this year, as the elections are for city and town offices.

But with Center Grove schools asking the public for permission to raise taxes to pay for school safety, those voters are being asked to head to a vote center in November. And county election officials are working on a plan to accommodate the unexpected turnout.

The Election Board earlier this month unanimously approved placing a public question on the ballot for a public safety referendum for Center Grove Schools, but the three-member board is concerned about whether they have the capacity to handle such a high number of voters.

“As I was looking at the locations for that area, I mean, we’ve got Mount Pleasant (Christian Church), which is the one that we kept, and we’ve got the White River Public Library, and then Mount Auburn Methodist (Church), and really those are the only three for Election Day that are in that area,” Clerk Trena McLaughlin said during the Election Board meeting.

McLaughlin plans to add a fourth vote center in the area — the White River Township Trustee’s Office — on Election Day as well as during early voting to accommodate the number of voters they are expecting to turn out for this election. The board will vote on whether to add the location at a public meeting July 31.

“I think that would be a good safeguard. That would cover the southern part of the Center Grove area,” Election Board member Phil Barrow said during the last board meeting.

“I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” he said.

This fall, voters in White River Township will be asked if they want to raise their property taxes for increased security and mental health support in the county’s largest school system.

If voters pass the referendum, the third in the last year in Johnson County, it will increase property taxes by 11.5 cents for every $100 of assessed value, which would bring in an additional $24.8 million over the course of eight years starting in 2020. It would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $112 per year in property taxes.

There are 34,316 registered voters in White River Township. About a third of those voters are eligible to vote in Bargersville town races, and about 7,000 are eligible to vote in Greenwood city races, said Reagan Higdon, first deputy clerk.

The county does have enough machines to handle the possible turnout, as the election board had plenty of machines brought in for this year’s elections to avoid long lines.

The public question has been approved by the Center Grove school board, Indiana Department of Government Finance and Election Board. It will be on the fall ballot.

“We do have other locations in Greenwood, just not in the White River area,” McLaughlin said.

Those vote centers include The Nest, Greenwood Christian Church and Vineyard Community Church.