Carmel Clay Schools Supt. Michael Beresford has been making a case for the school safety referendum.
The state legislature added school safety as an option to be supported through a referendum, effective July 1. Beresford said CCS is the first district to pursue it for November. The referendum, which would last eight years, will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
If approved, the referendum would increase the school tax rate a maximum of five cents per $100 of assessed home value. That would equate to an additional $65.13 per year for a home assessed at $250,000. The highest school safety tax a district can seek is 10 cents per $100 of assessed home value.
“You can’t watch the news without seeing shootings every day somewhere. It’s spreading out from the schools into Walmarts and places of work,” Beresford said at a Sept. 26 referendum information session at Carmel Middle School. “The violence continues to escalate, and because of that, we have to put more layers of safety in place. That’s what this referendum is all about, keeping our kids safe. The other trend is that kids that have mental health issues continue to rise higher and higher. The ages of the kids who are suffering mental health illness or disorder is getting younger and younger. Our numbers of kids with depression and anxiety has skyrocketed the last 13 years.”
Beresford said the district wants to hire 11 to 13 school resource officers if the referendum is approved. The cost would between $2 million and $2.5 million per year.
“That way we have a school resource officer dedicated to every school,” he said.
The district’s school resources officers are Carmel Police Dept. officers who are armed and trained to keep the school they serve safe.
Right now, the school has four SROs assigned to the high school and one at each of the three middle schools. Each middle school SRO is assigned to help at the 11 elementary schools.
“So, we have three school resource officers serving 14 schools, and we think that is unacceptable,” Beresford said.
Other money raised through the referendum would fund mental health programming, school safety equipment and school safety training for teachers and students.
The referendum funds would raise approximately $5 million per year. Up to $1.25 million would be spent on mental health programming.
After consulting with the Carmel Police Dept., Beresford said the school likely wouldn’t take the full five cents the first year because it would be difficult to hire and train all the school resource officers in the first year.
Public turnout was light at Carmel Middle School. Nicki McNally, co-chair of Carmel SOS, or Safety for Our Students, said the turnout was similar at the first two sessions.
“We’re hoping that nobody is here is a positive sign that people are supportive,” McNally said. “They’re supporting it and don’t need to hear it. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to is in favor. When we tell people there are only three SROs for 14 middle and elementary schools, their eyes pop out of their heads. They can’t believe in Carmel that is all we have.”
For more, visit carmelsos.org.