Education

Voters have rejected the New Albany-Floyd County school district’s proposed school safety expansion.

A referendum that would have imposed a new property tax to the tune of 8.5 cents per $100 of real estate value received 7,438 “no” votes and 6,733 “yes” votes. The rejection puts an end to the push that began last fall, emerging from a 2019 Indiana state law that was passed in the wake of a school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but we are accepting,” superintendent Brad Snyder said. “We thought we developed a really good policy with the community. We kind of built an army of really talented volunteers. We had a really good ground game. At the end of the day, when we counted them up, we came up short.”

The eight-year tax would have raised more than $3 million for the district to implement a variety of new safety measures, including improved security features for buildings and the hiring of more mental health professionals and school resource officers (SROs).

About two-thirds of the funding would have gone towards bolstering mental health services, such as the prevention of bullying, suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse. The remaining money was to be used on SROs and facility improvements that included security cameras, new doors, and safety and monitoring software.

It’s Snyder’s belief that the effects of the pandemic, both in terms of economic impact and social distancing measures, played a role in the defeat. With a conversation as complex as school safety, he said, face-to-face interaction with the community is important.

“When COVID hit, we couldn’t canvass,” he said. “We couldn’t doorknock. We were doing a great job with town halls and formal and informal meetings and one-on-ones. I really thought we had good momentum. When the lockdown came, we kind of lost it.”

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.