Bremen Schools seek tax raise for students mental, physical health fund

NOW: Bremen Schools seek tax raise for students mental, physical health fund

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BREMEN, Ind. -  The November election is just around the corner and many of you are already voting early. So that's why this week our Learning Curve team is previewing two important referendums on the ballot.

On Tuesday we covered the referendum in Wawasee and Thursday we headed 30 minutes Southeast to Bremen where the district there is also asking for a raised property tax, however, the money would be going in a much different direction.

"It should be at the forefront of everyone's mind," Nicole Stevens, the Bremen School Corporation nurse said.

Early voting is already underway and Hoosiers have a lot to think about going into election day. For Bremen residents that may mean reading up on the district’s proposed referendum.

“We're asking the taxpayers if they would pay six cents on the hundred per hundred dollars assessed valuation, which comes out for the median property value in the areas, roughly 167,000 in that neighborhood. And it cost about $3 and 81 cents a month," Jim White, the Superintendent of Schools said.

The district’s property rate tax is currently around 70 cents per 100 dollars of property value, depending on where you live. The 6 cents would be added on top of that. School officials say the increase isn’t substantial.

“It's actually pretty low, we will still be the lowest in the county, if the referendum passes, we'll still be by far the lowest in the county as far as tax rates," White said.

But the payoff... could be huge.

“This referendum would generate about $317,000 a year," he said.

And the money? It’s heading straight to mental and physical health funds.

“We're seeing just an uptick in mental illnesses within students. Right now, especially with the covid virus, the anxiety level is just off the charts for students. We're also seeing depression, you know, students, some students have thoughts of suicide, they're dealing with adult traumas, some of their parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol," he said. "Some you know some stuff with my bipolar, some have temporary situations such as you know, loss or the death of a relative or friend. And so we really just, we don't have enough support for these students in terms of just helping them get through those situations and eventually coming out the other hand, a healthy productive citizen."

But this referendum didn't come out of nowhere and the pandemic wasn't the influencing factor but what officials say is just the "Icing on the cake" for something that has been a trend for a while.

“It has been a trend, we're just seeing these issues, manifest younger and younger. Things that used to be high school only, you know, with depression, or even thoughts of suicide are making their way in the middle school, and even in even the upper elementary," White said. "And so just the COVID is just the icing on the cake as far as the anxiety. But it's really weird playing this long before the covid. Because we just know, we need that help. We're understaffed in that area. I have one counselor for 1000 students in the elementary middle school, you know, the recommendations are one for you know, four or 500. And you know, on the score as a school nurse, we have 1400 and 62. Students give or take half in the corporation, and I have one nurse, and so it's just too big a load."

“I am the corporation school nurse," Stevens said.

Stevens is the only school nurse, but she shares a full-time position with another woman.

"So me and another nurse actually job share. It's a full-time position. So she works two days a week. And then I work the three days a week, and we share one full-time position," she said.

School officials would use some of the referendum money to hire more nurses.

"The state of indiana from what I remember, is they recommend one nurse per 500 students,"  she said. "We're close to 1500 I believe."

For Stevens, a vote yes would be a sigh of relief.

“I think it's really focusing on the children. It's not about me needing extra help. It's not about our counselor needing extra help. It's about making sure the kids get the help that they need," she said. "It's about making sure we're there for the kids who need us."

But that is easier said than done. Stevens said it has been a challenge.

"I think we miss kids in the frantic need to get to the urgent needs of the day that we're missing the kids who you don't necessarily see or wouldn't necessarily think we're having problems, because we can't take that time to say, hey, what's going on? You're here a lot. Is there something going on other than we have a tummy ache? We have just, you know, taking that time with them," she said.

The pandemic, just the icing on the cake for kids already dealing with their mental health.

“So even before the pandemic, we had seen kids with a lot more mental health, you know, anxiety, depression, just different things that they needed extra attention for, and even medical needs," she said. "So add a pandemic and the stress that caused with quarantine. I think people think kids did okay, through that, oh, they got to be home and they got to play. And I, I think kids struggled with it, even if they weren't showing outward signs of that.”

Stevens said she is seeing the effects of that now that school has reopened.

Now, the pandemic has affected a lot of Hoosiers wallets and spending more on taxes may be an issue but school staff remains positive.

“I think Bremen is a very kind community, they support the school very much. And I think it's really going to be an issue of can they afford it," White said. "I mean, I know it's a hard time to ask with covid going around, some people are unemployed, they may not have four bucks a month to spare. But so far the community has been I've talked to a lot of people they've been very supportive, very understanding.”

“I think when we talk kids, I think people are much more willing to say, yeah, I'll spend that money, I will gladly give them money. You know, for our future. These are these kids are our future. And so I don't think it'll be an issue," Stevens said.

Six cents may be too much for some dealing with the effects of this pandemic. We will just have to see what the vote is on November 2nd. 

As always if you have any questions or concerns regarding a school district in your area, email us at LearningCurve@abc57.com.

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