School safety

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams talks with school personnel in 2018 about how to deal with a potential school shooter. The Indiana Senate on Tuesday approved a measure authorizing school districts to hold a voter referendum on whether to increase property taxes to pay for school safety improvements. Senate Bill 127 now goes to the House.

INDIANAPOLIS — Parents, educators and taxpayers concerned about school safety may get the opportunity to decide if they want to open their wallets to fund safety improvements, training and personnel at their local school corporation.

Senate Bill 127, which was approved 42-7 Tuesday, authorizes school districts to hold a voter referendum on whether to hike property taxes by up to 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for up to a 10-year period to pay for school safety needs.

Under the plan, money raised through a school safety referendum could be used to employ school resource officers; establish a school safety office; conduct a threat assessment; create or update a school safety plan or response system; purchase safety equipment for a school building, grounds or bus; offer programs relating to youth mental illness; or train personnel on school safety issues.

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Supporters of the measure said creating a referendum option will allow school districts that win voter approval to no longer have to depend on state school safety grants that don't look to grow much beyond the $14 million awarded statewide last year.

Senators voting no seemed to have no problem with the referendum language. They largely objected to a separate provision in the proposal permitting state school safety grants to be used in part for training school personnel to use firearms.

The legislation now goes to the House.

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