For most rural and small Indiana town school districts, the public school is the center of community activity and interest. Citizens rely upon the schools for many varied events.
This is certainly the case in Brown County. Over the past weeks, our schools have hosted events, including a presentation by an internationally renowned survivor of the Holocaust, Eva Kor; our Brown County High School theater production of “Hello, Dolly”; the hosting of the southern Indiana district National History Day competition; and numerous school athletic events.
Many other community organizations rely upon the use of our facilities for their programming. Brown County Parks and Recreation Department’s many youth and adult activities use our gymnasiums and our fields. Our community Bantam League Football program, local Scouting troops and independent sporting teams also rely on our facilities from time to time.
The schools support activities involving summer camps by Brown County Parks and Recreation, many school-related summer athletic activities, a summer free lunch program and a summer school education program. We provided buses for parks and rec, BETA youth group and the YMCA so that our community youth can have a wider range of activities beyond the traditional school day.
Our youth are excelling in many areas under our current program. The Brown County Junior High School We the People team will be competing for a national championship in Washington, D.C., within the next week. They are the defending six-time Indiana state champions.
We have qualified three students for the Intel International Science Competition for the first time in the school district’s history. Many of our students were state qualifiers in the Indiana science fair competition.
Students in our Brown County High School theater have established themselves as one of Indiana’s premier programs. I believe the many community members who attended our recent production of “Hello, Dolly” will agree with this assessment.
Other recent achievements include “A” grades for all schools by the Indiana Department of Education, Four Star School status for Helmsburg and Sprunica Elementary, National Blue Ribbon status for Sprunica, a U.S. News and World Report silver rating for Brown County High School and the designation as one of Indiana’s best high schools and other achievements.
My point in listing these accomplishments is that our schools are serving our students very well and preparing them for their future as contributing citizens in our society. Quality schools are a major factor impacting the value of property in a community.
Our referendum request of 8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation should not have to be made to our voters. The Indiana General Assembly has not fulfilled its constitutional responsibility to our citizens and our youth by adequately funding rural, countywide school districts like ours.
Our quality teachers who have accomplished these amazing results deserve to be compensated for their successes. The General Assembly formula has prevented us from being able to accomplish this. We have lost several high-caliber teachers to districts who are able to compensate their teachers at much higher levels.
The General Assembly and the governor have created a climate in Indiana where young people are not entering the field of teaching. This shortage will become more acute and we must make our teacher salary compensation model competitive with other Indiana districts.
A “yes” vote on our referendum will allow us to develop a salary model which will make us competitive. It will also allow us to continue to assist the funding and programming of adult education at our Brown County Career Resource Center.
If the referendum fails, the new Brown County superintendent and our board of school trustees will have to make difficult decisions about staffing reductions, programming reductions and budgetary cuts.
Class sizes, which are already approaching high limits, will increase even further.
We will lose a number of our quality teachers to other districts that are already paying higher salaries. Filling teaching openings with high-quality teachers will be difficult or impossible in this era of new teacher shortages.
Using the Indiana property tax calculator which is available on the Taxpayers for Brown County Schools website (taxpayersforbrowncountyschools.com) and assuming the normal deductions for primary residence, it is estimated that if you own a property as your primary residence that is valued at $75,000, a “yes” vote will impact your property taxes by an additional $16 per year. This translates to an additional 31 cents per week.
If you own property valued at $100,000, your “yes” vote will impact your property taxes by an additional $29 per year or 56 cents per week.
If you own property valued at $150,000, a “yes” vote will impact property taxes by $55 per year or $1.05 per week.
If your property is valued at $200,000, your “yes” vote will impact your property taxes by an additional $81 per year or $1.55 per week.
Neither the board of school trustees nor I like having to use the strategy of a referendum to fund our schools. As has been stated many times, the current funding formula for public education by the governor and the General Assembly are making this necessary in many districts.
Our request for 8 cents is the least of the May referendum requests in all of Indiana.
Please consider supporting the boys and girls of our community with a “yes” vote May 3.
David Shaffer is superintendent of Brown County schools.