Clark-Pleasant schools seek tax increase for school safety measures

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WHITELAND, Ind. -- Clark-Pleasant Schools administrators want voters in the district to approve a tax increase to pay for enhanced safety and security measures at school buildings.

The school board approved a resolution on the matter Monday night that will now go to the state department of local government finance for approval of wording. After that, it would be sent to the Johnson County election board by Aug. 1 and appear on the November ballot in the form of a referendum.

“I think locally, at some point we’ve got to take control of our school safety for our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Spray.

Spray says the property tax increase would bring an additional $1.5 million into the district’s budget each year.  The money would be used to create the district’s own police department, rather than employing off-duty officers from four different surrounding police departments.

“Right now, we’re working with officers who are off-duty,” Spray said.  “So they’re either getting ready to go onto a shift or just came off of a shift, so it’s a long day for them.”

Spray says Clark-Pleasant Schools has developed great relationships with surrounding police departments, but having the district’s own department would better facilitate officers developing relationships with students and staff members.  The same officers could patrol the same hallways ever day.

“It becomes almost a mentor or one more person that kids can go and build that relationship with,” Spray said.

Another component of the plan would include hiring new crisis counselors to identify and work with students going through emotional problems, and addressing those problems before students resort to violence.

“Those crisis counselors would not only react and work with students and families in crisis situations, but also also run our anti-bullying programs, our suicide prevention programs,” Spray said.  

The counselors would also train teachers to identify troubled students.

“Educate our teachers so they know what those indicators are when a kid’s in crisis, a kid is suffering through trauma, has different things going on,” he said.  “So that they can then refer them to a crisis counselor or someone else so that the kid can get on our radar and get the services that they need.”

If the referendum were approved by voters in November, the increase would be 10 cents on every $100 of assessed property value, including businesses in the district.  The owner of a $100,000 would see a roughly $33 increase on their property tax bill. It would apply to 2019 property tax bills. 

Spray hopes to have the new police department up and running in time for the 2019-2020 school year.

Whiteland residents expressed mixed feelings on the matter Monday. Dan Scales says nobody likes a tax increase, but the plan might be worth it in the wake of the recent school shootings in Noblesville and Parkland, Florida.

“If they can find an alternative, great,” Scales said. “But if not, then a tax increase is fine with me.”

Angelina Fruits said she is not opposed to the increase, but wants to learn more about how the money would be spent.

My son’s going to be going to school soon, so having more police officers and stuff there would be nice,” Fruits said. “I would definitely want to find out more before deciding yeah I want one, or no I don’t.”

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