Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard isn’t running Carmel Clay Schools, but he’s watching closely as voters consider a referendum that controls the fates of 300 Carmel Clay employees.
During a Special Election May 2, Carmel residents will vote whether to approve a replacement referendum of $0.19 at $100 per assessed property value. It’s a 3-cent increase over the previous referendum, but other debt will be retired to keep the overall tax rate for education flat at $0.83.
In an interview with Current in Carmel, Brainard endorsed the referendum.
Do you support the referendum for Carmel Clay Schools?
Absolutely. It’s absolutely critical for economic development. It would be short-sighted to think, ‘Oh, we can lower our taxes by not approving the referendum,’ because what would happen is that we would not be able to attract employers here, because they wouldn’t be able to attract employees that they want. As a result, that commercial tax base would be leaving over time and our tax rates would go up.
Talk about the economic impact that Carmel schools have on the city.
It’s the best economic driver that we have. We get a very high percentage of our property taxes come from commercial properties and office space. We’re around 30 percent, and most cities are at the 8 percent range, and that’s the main reason our personal property taxes are so low here in Carmel. We don’t have mountains or oceans, so it’s absolutely critical to have first-rate schools to attract these top businesses and their employees. It’s also important to note that they’re not asking for a tax increase. They’re just asking for taxes to remain the same.
I heard you meet regularly with CCS Superintendent Dr. Nick Wahl. What do you talk about?
We coordinate on new development and the number of students coming into the system. A variety of community-wide issues. For instance, for more than 20 years now we’ve been saving lots of money by combining our fueling stations. Instead of the schools having an east and west side fuel pump for their vehicles and the city having an east and west side fuel pump for our vehicles, we share and we have a computer system that allocates the cost. That saves us thousands. We work on traffic control for school events. We have school resource officers in the school, and they try to reach the kids before they get into trouble. And they are city employees. They’re paid by the Carmel Police Dept. We have a host of things that we work together.
Do you support always having just one high school in Carmel?
There are a lot of cost savings to one school, and the key is that class size is small and that we have good curriculum offerings. We have the advanced classes offered so kids can go onto Harvard and Yale, and if we divided the schools a lot of those classes wouldn’t be offered. There wouldn’t be enough money for the same programs at each of those high schools.