BCSC updates referendum metrics

Almost two years after Bartholomew County voters approved a referendum for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., Superintendent Jim Roberts has reported that the district is meeting initial goals set for these funds.

In June of 2020, 61.33% of voters answered “yes” to the school corp.’s referendum, which lasts for a total of eight years. The referendum ballot question asked voters if they would be willing for BCSC to impose an additional property tax rate not exceeding $0.1560 on each $100 of assessed value “for the purpose of increasing compensation for teachers and support staff and maintaining student safety.”

Roberts gave a presentation to the school board Monday night on how BCSC is doing in terms of metrics that were set up prior to the vote.

“We believe it’s appropriate to hold ourselves accountable to that, given the tax dollars that are being invested in making these improvements and these changes,” he said.

One of the major goals of the referendum was to improve teacher retention through salary increases. The school corporation retained 87% of its teaching staff in the 2019-20 school year, said Roberts. The target for 2021-22 was 89%, and the actual percentage of retention for the year was 92%, as of Monday. The goal for 2022-23 is 90%.

Another goal was to increase the number of mental health providers at secondary schools. There were seven providers in 2019-20, and the target for 2021-22 was 10.

“We actually, with a lot of work done, ended up with 32,” said Roberts. “We’ll maintain that same target of 32 into 22-23. There is a shortage of mental health providers, and we’re trying to seek some additional funding to help out with that.”

He also noted that there’s been a sizable increase in students receiving mental health services. Major areas of concerns are anxiety, depression, coping skills and suicide ideation.

Additionally, BCSC seeks to increase the percentage of teachers trained in developmental assets or social/emotional learning. An estimated 6% of teachers met this standard in 2019-20, with a goal of 16% for 2021-22. The actual percentage is now 34%, and the goal for 2022-23 is 40%.

The referendum also set transportation goals, such as reducing the number of school buses that are more than 12 years old. The goal for 2021-22 — 32 buses — was met, and the target for 2022-23 is to get that down to 23.

BCSC is also seeking to reduce the percentage of bus routes that are either unfilled or filled by sub drivers. For 2019-20, the percentage was 12%. The goal for 2021-22 was 8%, and the actual was 6%. The target for next year is 4%.

Roberts also discussed elementary students’ participation in STEM labs during his presentation.

In February of 2022, the school board approved using $160,000 in additional appropriations from the operating referendum fund to support STEM lab expenses for this coming fall. The district is converting the labs into a “specials” rotation, similar to art or physical education, with certified teachers. The change is also being supported by Tax Increment Financing funds granted by the city of Columbus.

“These operating referendum funds are revenue collections in excess of the budgeted amount that we have projected for the eight years of the referendum, and that’s due to an increase in assessed value,” said Assistant Superintendent of Financial Services Chad Phillips at a previous meeting. “And so we’re able to apply the 15.6 cent rate but collect more than what we have budgeted to spend for this calendar year.”

The Department of Local Government Finance also made a small error on the amount of miscellaneous revenues calculated on excise taxes, so these were left out of the budgeted amount, he added.

Roberts said Monday that the goal is to have 100% of elementary students attend weekly STEM labs.

“That was less than 75% in 2021-22,” he said. “Most of our elementary schools did have a STEM lab, but we had a couple that were not able to fill that position and/or it was not on a routine basis.”

The goal for 2022-23 is 100%, with the same set for 2023-2024.