Two suburban school districts seek tax hikes for security reasons

Tax referendums involving Indianapolis Public Schools have received much of the local media attention in advance of Tuesday’s election, but IPS isn’t the only area school district voting on a property tax hike.

In Hamilton County, the Noblesville School Corp. seeks to raise $50 million through a referendum to help it pay for new security programs. The district wants to expand mental health services, hire more teachers and social workers, and start new safety initiatives

In Johnson County, Clark-Pleasant Community School Corp. in Whiteland hopes to raise $12 million to help it boost school safety by hiring full-time security officers and mental health counselors, and upgrading security-monitoring systems.

Unlike IPS, which is seeking $220 million over eight years in a referendum for operating expenses and $52 million in a separate referendum for building improvements, the two suburban districts are each conducting single votes to pay for operations.

Noblesville’s plan

Noblesville School Corp. announced its referendum plan in July, less than two months after a 13-year-old student opened fire in a classroom at Noblesville West Middle School, injuring 13-year-old student Ella Whistler and teacher Jason Seaman.

The measure, if approved, would bring in an additional $50 million over the next eight years, doubling the amount of taxes paid under the existing referendum in most cases.

The money would be used to employ more school resource officers, safety personnel and mental health counseling staff, and to recruit and keep teachers.

The district is asking for the existing 2016 referendum rate of 18.9 cents per $100 of a home's assessed value to be raised to 37 cents. The rate would be in place through 2026.

For district residents who own a home with a gross assessed value of $200,000, annual taxes would rise from about $185 annually under the current referendum, to about $362, according to a calculator on a website from backers of the referendum.

Clark-Pleasant’s plan

The Clark-Pleasant district, which includes Whiteland, New Whiteland, and portions of Greenwood and Franklin, wants to create its own security force to ensure safety at the district’s nine buildings.

If approved, district homeowners would pay an additional 10 cents per $100 of assessed value to raise about $12 million over eight years.  For district residents who own a home with a gross assessed value of $200,000, annual taxes would rise about $101. School officials say homeowners with a house of median value would pay only about $4 more per month.

The 6,700-student district is considering ways to add full-time resource officers to the schools and a pair of K-9 units. It also wants to add more security-monitoring technology and personnel to use it.

Additionally, the district hopes to better identify students who need mental health services, make more crisis counselors available and improve anti-bullying and suicide-prevention programs.

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