Brown County Schools referendum passes

Brown County Schools will be allowed to add 8 cents per $100 of assessed value to the property tax rate.

Voters approved the school district’s referendum by more than 1,000 votes May 3.

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.

“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.

Assuming standard deductions, a home with an assessed value of $100,000 will see an additional $29 in property taxes per year, the Indiana Gateway for Government Units estimated.

The cost, in addition to current property taxes, rises to $55 for a $150,000 home and $81 for a $200,000 home.

“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,” said Dave Bartlett, director of the Brown County Career Resource Center.

The CRC will get one cent of the 8-cent tax, about $125,000 a year.

“For the community to do that to support other people that they may or may not know, says a lot about a community,” Bartlett 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 the CRC receives.

Shaffer and Assistant Superintendent Dennis Goldberg both cited decreasing state funding as the reason why the referendum was needed.

“I don’t like going to the voters and asking for a tax increase,” Shaffer said. “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.”

The pool of state money is shrinking because of declining enrollment in Brown County Schools. Since the Sept. 18 official count, the district 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.

No referendum opposition group organized, except for red-and-white “Say no to … 8¢ Tax Hike for Brown Co. Schools” that began appearing around the county at the end of February.

One Nashville resident, J.D. Ray, wrote guest columns in The Democrat  against the tax hike, citing the cost as the reason he and other retirees would be voting no.

It wasn’t long before yellow “Vote Yes 4 Brown County Schools” signs began popping up as well, courtesy of the school district’s political action committee.

The committee launched a website, taxpayers, and a Facebook page which featured student testimonies to persuade voters, 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 Democrat, written by volunteers. The committee also hosted voter registration drives, and volunteers, including students, worked phone banks and knocked on doors.