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Shrinking student pop, shrinking school budget

Posted at 4:54 PM, Apr 21, 2016

BROWN COUNTY, Ind. – It’s happening slowly, year by year. Brown County Schools says it is losing students and losing funding. That’s why in just a week and a half, voters are urged to support a referendum.

But it’s one we’re learning not everyone is behind.

The referendum would bring $1 million to the school district each year, costing the average homeowner about $55 a year as a result.

On the district’s side, it’s a matter of math. Superintendent David Shaffer says Brown County Schools’ population is shrinking.

It dropped from roughly 2,500 students in 1995 to just over 1,900 this year.

“The funding formula is tied exclusively to enrollment,” Shaffer said. “So as we deal with declining enrollment, we deal with less revenue coming in.”

And that means less money to pay teachers.

In fact, Shaffer says, right now Brown County Schools doesn’t have any model set up to pay a teacher more if they are rated “effective” or “highly effective.”

“We’ve lost some people to school districts that are able to pay higher salaries,” Shaffer said. “So the referendum, we think, will help us recruit quality teachers.”

That reason isn’t quite good enough for some, like former school bus driver Paul Hardin. He ordered and put out protest signs to show not everyone supports the referendum.

“I know people that $20 extra hurts them,” Hardin said of the tax increase.

He says yes, teachers need more money. But Hardin believes the district can find it within its budget if it finds wiser ways to use what it already has.

“If we really thought they were spending it right, it may not be so bad,” Hardin said. “But people can’t afford another tax raise right now, unless somebody can give them more money.”

On May 3, the voters will decide.

To see which side of the debate you fall on, here’s a handy tax calculator you can use to figure out what the referendum would cost you.