Carmel Clay Schools is asking Hamilton County voters to approve a $40 million property tax increase on Election Day in the state’s first school safety referendum.
INTERVIEW Click link above for interview with WFYI's Eric Weddle and Carmel Superintendent Michael Beresford.
Lawmakers approved the tax mechanism earlier this year in wake of growing concerns over the safety and security of school buildings, and lack of ways to address student mental health. The referendum covers specific safety-related initiatives, such as the hiring of resource officers, mental health supports, safety equipment, and related training. The maximum that could be sought is 10 cents per $100 of assessed value.
If approved, the Carmel referendum would increase taxes by 5 cents per $100 of assessed value. That equals out to about $5 million per year over the referendum's eight years, for a total of around $40 million.
A property-tax bill of a home valued at $350,000 would increase $8.26 a month or $99.12 annually if the referendum is approved, according to the school FAQ.
Carmel Superintendent Michael Beresford says the increase in school violence, nationally and locally like last year’s shooting at a Noblesville middle school, spurred the district to propose hiring more resource officers.
“These trends are frightening,” Beresford says. “We want a school resource officer in every building. And it's not just to, you know, to be an armed guard. school resource officers are really part of the fabric of the school and, of course, they're there for a response, but they're also there for prevention.”
Beresford says the district wants to hire around 11 more officers. Currently, there are seven school resource officers, four assigned to the high school and three assigned to a middle school plus responsible for the 11 elementary schools.
If the referendum is approved, Carmel Clay seek a contract with a mental health organization to provide therapy for students. Beresford says this would remove barriers for families with children who want or need treatment because they could receive it during the school day.
The school safety
Carmel Clay School Corporation is north of Indianapolis in Hamilton County. The A-rated district has 15 schools and more than 16,300 students enrolled, according to the most recent state data.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect example of how much taxes would increase for a home.