By Lauren ZeugnerStaff Writer
Syracuse Town Council hosted two guest speakers at its regular meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 20. The meeting was held at the Syracuse Community Center to offer more social distancing for attendees.
Dr. Tom Edington, superintendent of Wawasee Community Schools, made a 45 minute presentation regarding the referendum the school corporation is asking taxpayers to vote yes on in this upcoming election. Edington explained what the state funds versus what local tax dollars pay for.
Edington explained Wawasee Community Schools has the lowest tax rate in the state while the assessed value for the area is similar to Warsaw. He discussed how the school corporation has been a good steward to the community, saving $600,000 by converting to solar power at five schools and the bus garage and saving an additional $250,000 by converting every light bulb to LED.
The referendum would be to increase property taxes 14.5 cents per $100 of assessed value for eight years. This would raise approximately $3.3 million for the school corporation which would be used for things such as installing cameras in bus stop arms, funding school resource officers as well as school guidance programs and more.
Edington said those interested in seeing what the potential impact of voting for the referendum could be could visit the corporation’s website and use the tax calculator provided.Councilman Bill Musser asked if the referendum passed if it could potentially push people out by having their rent raised and possibly being unemployed due to the pandemic. “I’m just saying it’s going to fall heavily on some people,” he said.
Edington said area industry is doing well and there is low unemployment in the area. “It’s going to fall heavily on those who live in those $150,000 houses, they’re maxed out,” said Councilman Larry Siegel.
Mark Knecht, a resident of Oakwood Park, noted he has gone to the website and done the tax calculator. “It needs to be more complete from a marketing/communications basis. I’ve already seen ‘No’ signs popping up,” he told Edington.
The next speaker was J.R. Parent, one of the owners of Oakwood. He told the council Oakwood is looking to expand and potentially grow in Syracuse.
Parent provided the council with a very preliminary plan to develop 10 acres in Oakwood Park, developing lots along Palm Drive and on Lake View where the tennis courts and basketball courts are currently located. Parent said some houses might be double sided, like a duplex.
Parent stated he wanted ideas and input from the town and noted the land in the park varies in topography. The area around the Event Center is one of the highest points in the county and would provide incredible lake views.Oakwood Park would have a park area in the center surrounded by lots. Parent said he was also considering putting in some retirement style homes as well. He wants to see what the demand is. The total development would be about 57 lots with prices ranging from $120,000 to $300,000 depending on location.
Siegel asked about the timeline. Parent said he would like to be in a position to get some bids by the end of 2021 with the worst case being starting in 2022. “We’d rather be successful and reasonable and sell quickly,” he explained.
The project will be done while maintaining the beauty of Oakwood Park. Parent also said there is no intention for any of the new lots to have rights to the lake. Residents living in the new homes can use Oakwood Beach.
Parent also reminded council the park is a tax increment finance district so the intention is to use TIF funds for infrastructure. “We want it to work. We want people to be there,” Parent said.