By MARCIA DEBOCK, guest columnist
As a member of the Brown County Partnership, I was asked to research the three components of the Brown County Schools referendum on the ballot on May 2.
We wanted to know and to share how the referendum dollars will be used — and more importantly, why should we, as the Partnership, advocate for the referendum?
In this and two feature articles to follow, we will focus on the CRC; teacher compensation plan recommendations to improve retention and recruitment; and, finally, how to encourage Brown County voters to exercise their voice in the future of Brown County overall and our public school system in particular.
The Career Resource Center was established in 2002. Since then, the CRC has provided a range of classes for adults including high school equivalency (formerly GED), Ivy Tech, certified nursing assistants (CNA) and electrical license classes.
In addition, the CRC has provided support services including assessment evaluations, counseling, scholarships, day care and transportation.
Health care is the largest concentration, with 144 registered nurses, 52 licensed practical nurses and 254 CNAs coming through the CRC to accomplish course requirements. Many CNA graduates have been employed by Brown County Health and Living Community.
Electrician license classes produced 23 master electrical licensees and 15 local licensed electricians.
Armed with this information, I looked for a real CRC graduate and found Travis Wheeler.
Travis had worked as an electrician and in general construction since graduating from high school. Eventually, he decided to pursue special licensing and focus his energies on the electrical trades.
He needed special certifications to do this, but how could he accomplish his goal while working to support his family? The Career Resource Center gave him his answer.
Working with instructor and mentor David Mills, Travis attended all the courses and passed all the testing required for the licensing he needed. Most importantly, Travis could fit his studies around his busy work schedule.
“I don’t know how I would have done it without the CRC,” explained Travis.
He attended classes for about 6 months and set himself up in business in 2005. That business continues to this day as Wheeler Electric.
Travis’ first business plan was to be a sole proprietor, networking among local tradesmen and contractors to build his business. He supplied himself with a truck, tools and parts.
Quickly, though, he found himself needing to hire more electricians. Because of his experience at the CRC, he turned to them for help and hired a number of recent licensed graduates to service his growing customer base.
Travis explained that “I often hire CRC graduates, and I send my workers there to get additional licensing. The CRC was very helpful to me providing assessments, mentoring, finding grant money, and gave me the study help I needed to succeed. Dave Mills, my instructor, taught and motivated me, so I consider him to be a big factor.”
When asked what the Career Resource Center could do to strengthen their programs, Travis said, ”Invest funds in additional space and provide study materials for every student so they don’t have to share. But I know that takes money.”
Travis is probably going back to the CRC for more education and certifications. He wants to research trends and be sure he stays ahead of electrical code changes. He might even take some accounting and business management courses, since he spends more time running the business these days.
If you want to learn more about Travis’ CRC experience, or need encouragement to start a course or stay on track to achieve your dream, he offered his phone number: 812-340-4643.
The Brown County School referendum will ask for an 8-cent increase in property tax revenue (8 cents per $100 in assessed valuation) of which 1 cent will be allocated to renew CRC operations for another seven years.
Seven years ago, Brown County approved funding the CRC at this level, so this year, an approval of the referendum will be vital to keep the CRC programs.
This is one reason to vote “yes” for the Brown County School referendum on May 2.
There are many success stories like this one from CRC graduates since the program was established. This one example put a man on track to better provide for his family and built his confidence to grow a successful business that provides work for several people today.
Multiply that potential by 768 CRC certification program graduates, and, well, you can do the math.
Check out the sidebar to this article to review the revenue and expense budget for the CRC, and consider joining the Partnership group in voting “yes” for the referendum on May 2 as an investment in Brown County’s economic vitality.
Marcia DeBock is a member of the Brown County Partnership, a coalition of community leaders whose goal is to maintain dialog between government and community and to ensure that community needs and priorities are addressed.
Service fees $36,000
Work One rental $6,000
Adult ed tuition $56,800
Property tax revenue $131,000 (if referendum approved)
Miscellaneous match funding $9,000
TOTAL ESTIMATED REVENUE: $309,200
Employee salaries/wages $172,600
Employee benefits $54,177
Contract instructional services $28,500
Instructional materials $8,500
Student services $4,500
Telephone and IT support $11,400
Professional development $3,500
TOTAL ESTIMATED EXPENSES: $301,177
Source: David Bartlett, CRC director