GOSHEN — A referendum aimed at raising funds for improved student safety within the Wa-Nee School Corporation was passed overwhelmingly Tuesday by district voters.
By the close of polls Tuesday, 2,977 voters had voted in favor of the referendum, or 68.33 percent of the total vote.
According to Scot Croner, superintendent of Wa-Nee Community Schools, the decision to put the referendum question on Tuesday’s ballot was, in large part, a reaction to the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 students and staff members and injured 17 others.
As approved, the school safety referendum question asked district residents to support an eight-year property tax rate increase of up to $0.0959 per $100 of assessed valuation for the purpose of improving student safety and security throughout the school district. The exact wording of the referendum question was as follows:
“For the eight (8) calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum (2019-2026), shall the Wa-Nee Community School Corporation impose a property tax rate that does not exceed nine and fifty-nine hundredths cents ($0.0959) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other property taxes imposed by the School Corporation for the purpose of funding improvements for the safety, security, and well-being of Wa-Nee students?”
According to Croner, a total of four new programs will be funded through the approved referendum. Those programs include:
• Partnering with the Nappanee and Wakarusa police departments to employ two full-time school resource officers, one stationed in Nappanee and one in Wakarusa;
• Hiring several mental health counselors to assist staff and students with social/emotional needs and serve as liaisons between the school corporation and the state’s social service departments;
• Converting the corporation’s half-day Alternative School Program to a full-day program, requiring the hiring of two certified employees and an instructional assistant to provide additional academic assistance for the program’s students; and
• Utilizing referendum funding to purchase equipment — bulletproof glass, additional security cameras, fencing for playground areas, etc. — and provide training to staff that will better secure the corporation’s buildings and improve communication capabilities between school and emergency personnel.
Total cost to implement and maintain the four new programs will run about $1 million annually, which is the amount the approved referendum will bring in for the corporation each year over the course of its eight-year lifespan, Croner explained.