FLOYD COUNTY – Voters in Floyd County will get a say on whether they are willing to pay higher taxes in an effort to increase safety and security at schools in the May primary.
In a unanimous vote Monday night, the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. board voted in favor of asking the public to support the proposed school safety referendum, which will increase taxes for property owners by 8.5 cents per $100 assessed value for eight years.
That will bring in $3.1 million per year to use for safety improvements, mental health services for students and more.
The safety referendum only became an option for schools this past summer. Carmel Clay Schools, near Indianapolis, was the first to embark on this, passing their safety referendum in November.
“Carmel was the first to pass it. They are a neighboring school corporation of Noblesville, which experienced a terrible tragedy,” said Misty Ronau, chair of the political action group tasked with getting people to vote in favor of the referendum. “Our school board decided they were not going to wait for a tragedy to respond. They’re going to respond in a way that allows us intervention and prevention. We’re going to stave off tragedy before it happens.”
Many community members spoke out prior to the vote, all in favor of the tax increase.
“For a very small investment, we are able to provide safety and resources that will benefit our children,” said Terri Coffey, who has three children in NAFC schools. “Will it be perfect? No. But it is a step forward and the right thing to do.”
Coffey, a real estate agent, said communities that do have something tragic happen at a local school see downturns in market value of homes and in the number of transactions. She said for the median home with an assessed value of $128,600, this referendum will mean $3.88 per month in extra taxes, after taking into account homestead and other deductions.
“When we know better, we do better. Once upon a time, seatbelts were not a thing. But people studied and invented and put in the work and then we were safer and healthier,” she told the board prior to the vote. “…And here we are, we are living in the crux of once upon a time, we told children… to suck it up, push it down, get over it. But people are studying, inventing and putting in the work. Our vote of yes, our small investment, can finish that sentence, and then we were safer and healthier.”
Joy Lohmeyer, president of the NAFC teachers’ association, said the group endorses the safety referendum.
“We believe that it is in the best interest of students, families and our community,” she told the board. “It’s educators daily goal to have as many students as possible be ready to learn when they arrive in our classrooms.”
She said students must feel safe in all aspects to learn.
“Safety comes in many forms – emotional safety, social safety and physical safety,” she added. “We believe that in order to have a safer, better educated community for the future, we must create an environment that supports student learning and academic success.”
Just before the roll call vote, many board members spoke out in favor of the referendum.
“I believe that supporting the students and staff, these resources now will cost us less money preventing negative behaviors than when we spend money housing these folks in the criminal justice system,” said board member LeeAnn Wiseheart. “I believe in mental detectors. And, mental detection now, in my opinion, will prevent metal detectors later.”
Now, with the yes vote, Ronau can move forward with the newly formed political action committee, named Safety for Schools. With a new website and many volunteers, she said she is ready to get the word out to voters as quickly as possible. With 24,000 registered voters in Floyd County, Ronau said she knows she has work to do.
“We know at the end of the day, it’s not parents, grandparents, teachers, school administrators that are going to make this decision. It’s every voter that comes to the polls,” Ronau said. “So, our job as a PAC is to educate and advocate, so that every single voter that shows up makes an informed decision to vote yes resoundingly in support of this.”
For more information on the PAC, go to www.sosfloydcounty.com.