November 1, 2018

Noblesville Referendum Asks Local Taxpayers To Fund Safety Improvements

The Noblesville Schools Board - Eric Weddle/WFYI News

The Noblesville Schools Board

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Calls for bolstering safety at Indiana’s schools increased in the wake of the May 25 shooting at Noblesville Middle School West. Lawmakers responded by creating loans of up to $500,000 for safety initiatives and the Governor’s office offered free metal detectors to schools.

But communities and schools leaders have sought more expansive actions, from hiring armed resource officers to installing new closed-circuit systems in school.

Noblesville is one of a handful of districts also with referendums on the November ballot to help pay for new safety programs including Indianapolis Public Schools, Lake Ridge Schools, Clark-Pleasant and Wa-Nee Community Schools.

At public meetings in Noblesville, parents demanded more services to help students with mental health and emotional needs and hardening school buildings with additional security measures.

In response, the Noblesville school board approved a $50 million property-tax referendum for Tuesday’s ballot to expand mental health services, hire more teachers, social workers and start new safety initiatives. The city also pledged to continue splitting the cost of armed officers in school buildings. If the referendum passes, the district says it will hire eight additional school resource officers to cover every school

School leaders say a local tax increase is the only option for districts to fund large safety initiatives. Julia Church Kozicki, Noblesville School Board member, says regular state funding formula or the new sate-matching-grant for safety just won’t cover the costs of these expansive plans.

“When you are talking about personnel, that is not something incorporated in the current state funding formula,” Kozicki says. "And I’m not sure there is adequate dollars to support all the districts in the state looking for that. It would require a significant change in the amount of money they make available.”

If Noblesville’s measure is approved, the district says owners of a median-valued home will pay $15 more a month in taxes.

The district current’s operating referendum tax rate is 18.9 cents per $100 of assessed value. Voters approved that rate in 2016. The proposed referendum on Tuesday’s ballot would replace the 18.9 cents rate with a new rate of 37 cents per $100 of assessed value.

It remains to be seen how well the state’s effort to help schools funds for safety upgrades works. IPBS reported in September that only three districts had applied for the grants.

 

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