Voters said “yes” to Brown County Schools.
Starting with May 2017 tax bills, Brown County property taxpayers will see an increase of 8 cents per $100 of assessed value on their tax rate.
The referendum passed with the support of 59 percent of voters May 3.
“I was really, really pleased that our people recognized, I think, how important having a quality school district is to their property value and to our community and to our children,” Superintendent David Shaffer said, watching the votes come in at Democratic headquarters.
The new money to be raised will total about $1 million a year for seven years.
The bulk — about $875,000 — will go toward supporting current and new school programs, recruiting and retaining teachers and paying general bills.
Assuming standard deductions, a home with an assessed value of $100,000 will be charged an additional $29 in property taxes per year, the Indiana Gateway for Government Units estimated.
In addition to current property taxes, the cost rises to $55 for a $150,000 home and $81 for a $200,000 home.
The Brown County Career Resource Center will get 1 cent of the 8-cent tax — about $125,000 a year.
“For people to vote for something that actually has a price with it, that’s a different kind of vote that takes a lot of thought for people,” CRC Director Dave Bartlett said.
“For the community to do that to support other people that they may or may not know says a lot about a community,” he said.
The adult education center has received property tax money from a referendum since 2011, at the 1-cent rate. This referendum will replace the current one.
Shaffer and Assistant Superintendent Dennis Goldberg both cited decreasing state funding as the reason why the referendum was needed.
“I think the responsibility for that really lies with the General Assembly, and we haven’t been able to get them to understand what some of us need,” Shaffer said.
The pool of state money also is shrinking because of declining enrollment. Since the state’s Sept. 18 count, Brown County Schools had lost 34 more students, down to 1,939, in March.
Teachers also have left for higher-paying jobs in other districts, Shaffer said earlier this year.
The referendum may allow the district to create a salary model so that teachers could see what they will earn if they stay with Brown County Schools for several years, Shaffer said.
School employees, retired teachers and other supporters organized a political action committee to educate voters about the referendum and persuade them to “Vote Yes 4 Brown County Schools.”
In addition to their yellow yard signs, the committee launched a website, taxpayersforbrowncountyschools.com, and a Facebook page that featured student testimonies, photos of campaign efforts — like teachers handing out books at the Brown County IGA — and student accomplishments.
A series of pro-referendum guest columns appeared in the Brown County Democrat, written by volunteers. The committee also hosted voter registration drives, worked phone banks and knocked on doors. Students helped, too.
No coordinated effort organized against the referendum, except for red-and-white “Say no to … 8¢ Tax Hike for Brown Co. Schools” signs that began appearing at the end of February.
One Nashville resident, J.D. Ray, wrote guest columns in The Democrat, arguing against the tax hike, citing the cost as the reason he and other retirees would be voting no.
High school junior Cash Myers and freshman Chris Ratzburg heard some opposing voices while they campaigned from 6 a.m. to noon at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, the Jackson 2 polling place.
“We only had a few no’s, a few strong no’s. We had one person who gave a respectful debate. That was pretty fun. And most of the people just said, ‘Ah, I don’t want another tax.’ Then you just say, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Have a nice day,’” Myers said.
Myers had worked for the referendum since it was announced last December.
At Democratic headquarters on election night, he was all smiles after hearing it had passed.
“It feels good. I knew we would (win). I had a good feeling. From being out at the polls, most people said ‘yes,’” he said.
Brown County Schools tax referendum