Special Meeting Monday To Discuss School Referendum

The Board of Trustees of Crothersville Community Schools will hold a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. next Monday, Jan. 27, for a public discussion as well as question and answer session on the May 5 election school referendum.
At that election the school will be asking voters to approve increasing the local school tax rate by 63¢ with those funds dedicated to teacher salaries.
That would mean any property assessed at $100,000 would pay about $52 a month or $630 a year additional for school salaries. Most homes in the school district have assessed values well under that example.
For the past several years Crothersville has been transferring money from the education fund to the operations fund in order to meet overhead costs.
The public is encouraged to attend this information sharing meeting.

Scott County Sheriff’s Dept. Made Record Number Of Arrests In 2019

Scott County Sheriff Jerry Goodin has released the yearly statistics for the sheriff’s department. Goodin officially took office Jan. 1, 2019 and in the 12 ensuing months deputies made 222 drug related arrests; a total of 964 arrests for all crimes; responded to 14,153 calls for assistance and completed 11,150 case reports.
“Scott County Sheriff’s Deputies made more criminal arrests in 2019 year than any other year in the Sheriff’s Office history,” said Goodin.
But in addition to incarcerating offenders, he noted that the department assisted those in jail to help in not being re-arrested on other crimes.
The Scott County Jail graduated 10 prisoners with GED’s, 10 prisoners with welding degrees, and 5 prisoners graduated with Safe Food Handling Certifications.
“Scott County was the first in the State of Indiana for any county jail offering the welding classes to prepare inmates for the workforce after their release,” said the sheriff. “And some had jobs waiting on them.”
Additionally, there are twelve weekly classes being offered to prisoners for self-improvement involving both faith based and secular style help, he said.
The Scott County Sheriff’s Office Reserves, an unpaid group volunteers, worked over 10,501 hours in 2019, this is not including the Sheriff’s Posse hours worked. “This equates to a tax savings for the tax payers of over $215,280 for the service they provided,” noted the sheriff.
“I am extremely proud of his agency for their hard work getting Scott County closer to being a Drug Free Zone and the safest County in America,: said Goodin. He said he anticipated 2020 will be even better with several special criminal details planned.
“Scott County is getting safer by the day,” he added.
The sheriff expressed his thanks the public for their tips and help. “There is no way we could have accomplished what we did without the public’s help,” said Goodin. “Keep the tips coming in.”

Local Leaders To Explore Property Tax System In Purdue Extension Workshop

Purdue Extension will provide a workshop for local leaders to learn about Indiana’s property tax system and explore trends in local and regional property tax data next Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Jackson County Community Foundation. Local government officials, community leaders, and interested residents from Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, Jennings, Lawrence, Scott and Washington counties are invited to attend.
In Indiana, each local government unit sets its property tax levy—or what it intends to collect through property taxes—based on its budget and other revenue sources. The levy is then divided by the assessed value in the local government’s jurisdiction to get a property tax rate.
Every property parcel is served by a set of local governments—a county, a township, a school district and perhaps a city or town, library or special districts. The tax rates of these overlapping government units are added up to the total tax rate a taxpayer sees on their tax bill.
Tax bills are then capped at 1% for homesteads, 2% for farmland/other residential and 3% for all other property. The caps provide a tax break for property owners, but create a revenue loss for local governments. The loss of taxes through these tax cap credits is then shared by the overlapping units. Each unit’s revenue depends on the actions of the other units, so often local officials from one unit may not see or understand how they fit into the complete property tax system. Nor do they usually have the opportunity to compare their data to others in the region or of similar population.
The median property tax rate in Indiana in 2019 was $2.15 per $100 net assessed value. Of the counties covered in the workshop two have average tax rates below the state median—Brown and Jackson. Not surprisingly they also have two of three highest per capita assessed value in the region at $86,081 and $47,707 respectively. Assessed values in Jennings, Lawrence, Scott, and Washington counties are among the lowest 25 percent in the state- all under $35,000 per capita.
The workshop will dive deeper into these numbers as well as take a look at the variations within each of these counties.
To register, call the Purdue Extension Jackson County Office at 812-358-6101, email Heather VonDielingen at schneidh@purdue.edu, or visit www.cdext.purdue.edu. Registration is due by Monday, Jan. 27.
If the workshop is cancelled due to weather, it will be reschedule for February 5. Registrants will be notified by email or phone call if it is necessary to cancel.

Crothersville Seeking Third State Paving Grant

If the Town of Crothersville is successful in a Community Crossings Paving Grant program, eight more streets could be re-surfaced, according to town engineer Brad Bender of FPBH.
In the past two years, Crothersville has received nearly $641,000 in state funding for paving projects.
But Bender told the council that they had to move quickly.
The program opened Jan. 6 and closes Jan. 31. Since the Crothersville Town Council only meets once a month, he approached the board during its meeting Jan. 7 to receive approval to move forward with applying.
The council unanimously approved a motion to encumber the funds and President Danieta Foster to sign any needed paperwork.
The proposed paving projects include:
•Main Street Circle
•Main Street from 480 feet east of Preston Street to Main Street Circle
•Walnut Street from Preston Street to 700 feet east
•Bard Street from U.S. 31 to Seymour Road
•Walnut Street from U.S 31 to Seymour Road
•Vine Street from the terminus to Walnut Street
•Central Avenue from the terminus to Moore Street
•Cindy Lane from U.S. 31 to 80 feet west of Seymour Road
The eight projects total $275,065.
To qualify for funding, local governments must provide matching funds — 50% for larger communities or 25% for smaller communities — from a funding source approved for road and bridge construction. They also must submit an INDOT-approved asset management plan for maintaining existing roads and bridges.
State law requires 50% of the available matching funds be awarded to communities within counties with a population of 50,000 or fewer. That would include Crothersville.
In 2018, Crothersville completed 14 paving projects after receiving $423,406.10 in Community Crossings funding. In 2019, the town completed 10 projects with the $217,480.80 it received.
“It has been a great program,” Bender told the council. “It started out they said it would be a five-year program, but now, it sounds like it will keep going. We recommend you take advantage of it.”
“Prior to these grants, we were spending about $70,000 a year,” Foster said. “Now, we’re spending approximately the same amount, but we’re getting $275,000 worth of paving done.”
Bender agreed, saying, “Your budget for you guys to spend is $68,000. It has been budgeted. That means you can go up to $272,000. What we put together is $275,000. I think that’s well within reason. This is what we can submit to the state and ask for. It keeps you within your budget.”
Since Community Crossings was established, more than $612 million in state matching funds has been awarded for road construction projects.

Jackson & Scott County Schools Receive Federal Accountability Ratings

Most area public schools in Jackson & Scott Counties are meeting or close to reaching federal accountability standards, but none are exceeding them, according to the 2018-19 school accountability ratings.
The Indiana Department of Education released the data late last week.
Schools are measured on indicators such as academic achievement, academic progress, closing achievement gaps, graduation rates, English language proficiency, strength of diploma and addressing chronic absenteeism.
Two Jackson County schools, Medora Elementary School and Crothersville Junior-Senior High School, received overall ratings of “does not meet expectations,” while five schools, Medora Junior-Senior High School, Cortland Elementary School, Emerson Elementary School, Seymour-Redding Elementary School and Brownstown Central High School, were rated as “meeting expectations.”
Seven Jackson County schools received ratings of “approaching expectations.” They were Seymour High School, Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, Seymour Middle School, Seymour-Jackson Elementary School, Brownstown Central Middle School, Brownstown Elementary School and Crothersville Elementary School.
The three schools in Scott County School District 1, Austin Elementary, Middle and High Schools are all ‘approaching expectations’.
At Scott County School District 2, Johnson Elementary, Vienna-Finley Elementary and Scottsburg High School received a ‘meets expectations’ rating while Lexington Elementary, Scottsburg Elementary and Scottsburg Middle School were ‘approaching expectations’.
A complete listing of federal accountability ratings and how they’re calculated is available at https://www.doe.in.gov/accountability/find-school-and-corporation-data-reports. Scroll down to the “federal results” listings.

Residents Air Odor Complaints On Yet-To-Be-Open Bark Plant

While Sims Bark south of Crothersville has yet to officially get into production, some residents have expressed concerns about an odor that’s emanating from their still under construction manufacturing facility.
During the first of the year town council meeting Tuesday night, East Moore Street resident Kathy Thurston said she’s extremely concerned about the smell coming from Sims Bark Co., a mulch manufacturing facility at U.S. 31 adjacent to Interstate 65 south of Crothersville.
Andy Johnson, vice president of operations, and Joe Mills, procurement manager, attended the meeting to answer questions.
Mills said as the wood product starts composting it give off an aroma. “We been accumulating bark and wood mulch getting ready for when we begin production,” said Mills. “Once we get into production, I don’t expect there to be the large mounds of wood product and odor that there is now.”
The company expects to officially get into production later next month.
“We won’t be stockpiling as much as we have now because we’re going to be processing that as it goes,” Mills said.
He told Thurston the smell can’t be completely eliminated, but Sims Bark will keep it at a minimum as much as possible.
“It will not be near what we’ve had in the last few months because we won’t have that much product on the ground,” he said. “We can’t bring it all in when we’re ready to flip the switch and process it. We had to bring it in early to have it here.”
Around 5,000 truckloads of material were brought in, and Mills expects processing to start within the next month.
“Those piles will disappear quicker than you think,” he said of the large piles on the site.
“When consumers go buy mulch, that’s our season, so we have to have it ready,” Mills said. “We do 80% of our business in those four months. We have to be processing it all year-round to be able to supply demand during those four months, so in the next season, most of all of the product we’ve brought in will be processed as the year runs. It won’t be waiting until all of the construction is done.”
North Preston Street resident Candi Lewis asked if there’s any way to eliminate the smoke that rolls off of the piles.
“I notice on some days, it’s worse,” she said. “Some mornings, it seems to be smoking more. I don’t know if it’s because it has heated up.”
Mills said a lot of that is steam as a result of the natural and intended decomposition process. “As the piles sit there so long, they do heat up,” he said.
“The longer the material sits there, the stronger that smell gets,” Johnson said. “Once we get into full operation, those piles won’t sit as long. They’ll be turned over fairly quickly.”
“If we can take that material that’s in those big piles now and put it into pallets, that’s what we want to do,” he said. “We’re trying to maintain about a month’s supply of raw material out there, which is about probably a quarter of what’s there now,” said Johnson.
Council President Danieta Foster said in October, she and her husband visited his hometown, Corbin, Kentucky, and went by the Sims Bark operation at nearby Woodbine. The Tuscumbia, Alabama-based company also has operations in Brent, Alabama; Olive Branch, Mississippi; Woodbury, Georgia; and Bowman, South Carolina.
Foster said she didn’t see large mounds of wood bark in Kentucky, but she saw thousands of pallets of bagged mulch.
“The biggest pile we’ll have on our yard will be the fine material that we make soil out of,” Mills said. “We do want that to break down as much as possible. That’s the only piles we’ll have an abundance of. If you saw piles in Corbin, that’s probably what it was.”
Mills said “first in, first out” is the thought pattern that keeps material turning over.
In terms of the smell, Johnson said what Crothersville residents are experiencing now is the worst it’s going to get.
“Just because we’re starting with nothing,” he said. “All of these other plants got all of the pallets out there. We need that, but we don’t have it right now.”
South Armstrong Street resident Ed Koerner asked if Sims Bark had received a tax abatement from the county because he heard a rumor about the company hiring people from out of state.
In April of last year, the Jackson County Council granted 10-year abatements on $4,904,000 in equipment and $3,250,000 in new building construction. At the time, Johnson said they planned to order equipment for four automated bag lines at $1 million each and construct a number of buildings for its operations. He also said the company planned to hire 20 full-time employees with combined annual wages of $1.2 million.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Johnson said all of their employees live within a 60-mile radius of the Crothersville plant. “The only people who may not be from the area are among the 25 there now to build the processing plant,” Johnson said. Mills said they also use as many local vendors as possible.
Lewis said she doesn’t want the odor coming from Sims Bark to deter people from coming to Crothersville.
Mills said he lives in the community, too, and he doesn’t want any smells to offend anyone.
“We’re here to support the community, support this town and support the county and the surrounding counties. That’s what Sims Bark is. I came in with this company in June, and they’ve backed me with that and told me that’s what they wanted, so they are a part of this community,” he said.
In it’s first meeting of the new year, Danieta Foster elected president of the Town Council and Chad Wilson was named vice-president.
In other appointments, new council members Jason Hillenburg and Katie Masters and town resident Albert Stormes were named to the town safety board with Foster serving as inspector.
Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson, Rick Strong, Dale Schmelzle and Hillenburg will serve on the town’s redevelopment commission.
Jeff Lorenzo was reappointed as town attorney, Duane Davis as the town’s Indiana Department of Homeland Security representative and Curt Kovener as the town’s representative on Jackson County Industrial Development Corporation.