Guest column: ‘Yes’ referendum vote will assist adult learners, too

By TOM BARR, guest columnist

I am writing this on behalf of the Career Resource Center (CRC) to encourage Brown County citizens to vote “yes” on the upcoming referendum for educational funding, which will take place May 3.

Not every high school kid, suddenly laid-off adult or newly-divorced mother has the aptitude, financial ability, or, often, simply the time to seek a four-year college degree to enter or re-enter the workforce.

While public schools do an excellent job of preparing their students for college, they simply do not have the resources to train those who are not college-bound to be prepared to enter the workforce.

That’s where the CRC comes in.

I suspect that most people — including myself until recently — have a general idea of what the CRC does but are not really aware of what a vital resource it is to our community, or exactly what it has to offer.

The Brown County CRC, located on East Main Street in the building that used to house the library, began operating in May 2002. Now, nearly 14 years later, it offers a wide variety of services.

It is affiliated with Ivy Tech, currently helping those who wish to get enrolled at the area campuses.

It offers an adult education, high school equivalency class to help prepare those who didn’t graduate from high school to receive their high school diploma.

There are certifications in a number of fields, including certified nursing assistant (CNA), Computer Tech Support Specialist (A+ Program) and electricity, which prepares an individual to become a master electrician and to pass licensing tests required by Brown and surrounding counties.

There are also courses in American Sign Language and solar energy, individual computer instruction, and training to master QuickBooks for small businesses.

Our CRC boasts more than 10,000 walk-in visits annually, meaning visitors in addition to people who take courses such as those referred to above. The majority come in to use the several computers that are available free to the public without limitation on the time of use.

In addition to the CRC’s very able and dedicated director, Dave Bartlett, it employs a full-time administrative assistant, an adult education instructor, a career education coordinator and an adult education coordinator/support services coordinator plus six classroom instructors. The CRC building also provides space for an Ivy Tech office and a WorkOne office, with which the CRC works closely.

Since its inception, the CRC has assisted students in receiving 471 associate degrees/certificates, including 144 in registered nursing and 52 in licensed practical nursing, 554 high school equivalency degrees (GEDs), 254 CNA certifications and 23 master electrician certifications.

It is important to keep in mind that these are not just statistics. Each of these numbers represents a real human being with his or her own unique story, many of whom have been able to realize opportunities in the workplace that, were it not for the CRC, they may well have never known.

Back to the referendum — many people do not realize that the CRC is currently receiving funds as a result of a referendum which was passed by Brown County voters in November 2010. The CRC receives approximately $130,000 annually from those funds, which comprises 35 to 40 percent of its annual budget.

The amount being sought by the CRC in 2016 — 1 cent for every $100 of assessed real estate value — is the same as what was passed in 2010.

What is different in 2016 is that the Brown County school corporation, through which the CRC receives its funding, is also seeking additional revenue.

The total for the schools and the CRC is 8 cents for every $100 of assessed property value.

The school and the CRC are together in this process; in other words, there will be but one question on the ballot.

If this one question does not receive a majority of “yes” votes, not only the school corporation, but also the CRC, will not receive this much-needed revenue.

Should that happen, the unfortunate result would be that the CRC as it currently functions will cease to exist.

Finally, regarding the actual impact to an individual voter’s pocketbook, if you are interested in knowing exactly how it will affect you, go to the website taxpayersforbrowncounty Included on the site is a calculator which will tell you exactly what the financial impact will be to you if the referendum passes.

You will see that, when compared to the vast benefits it makes possible to our local educational programs, it is really very minimal.

For example, if your home has an assessed value of $148,000, and you take advantage of exemptions which are allowed, the difference in your property taxes is $52 per year, a little over $4 per month. It’s hard to think of any investment you could make which would give you more “bang for your buck.”

So I urge you, if it is important to you that our county continue to maintain the high quality educational services and programs that our children — and adults — require to be able to succeed in the workplace and in life, please vote “yes” on May 3.