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SH, NH discuss riverboat funding

The Harrison County Council heard from North and South Harrison Community School Corp. officials last week regarding annual riverboat gaming funds distributed to the schools.
Both school systems use some of the funding to provide security for their campuses. North Harrison uses the State Police Alliance out of Jasper, which provides off-duty or retired officers to secure the campus at a cost of $40,000 per year.
D. John Thomas, superintendent at North Harrison Community School Corp., said they have a police presence on campus every day.
‘I think that’s been a good deterrent,’ he said. ‘I’m not going to brag about it because you never know.’
South Harrison Community School Corp. utilizes school resource officers from the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Town of Corydon.
The first three-year agreement with the county officers has been completed, and county government plans to soon re-sign to help pay for two officers for another three years.
A third officer is provided by the Town of Corydon.
South Harrison pays 70 percent back to the county through a school safety grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education, which came about after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.
‘They do an absolutely wonderful job for us,’ Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent at South Harrison, said of the resource officers. ‘It’s been a wonderful relationship for us.’
Thomas spoke of other uses for the riverboat funding the county grants to the school, such as paying 50 percent of textbook fees for students, $20,000 for high school and junior high band equipment (mainly instruments), $20,000 for library books for all four of its buildings and $237,000 for technology.
‘I can’t say enough how much I’ve appreciated your support,’ Thomas said.
The county also allowed North Harrison to transfer $232,000 from the education fund and apply it to debt service.
Thomas said it made all the difference in paying for the middle school addition/renovation project yearly payments.
‘We wouldn’t have been able to make that payment,’ he said. ‘Well, we could have, but taxes would have gone up even more.’
Thomas said they’ve been able to keep the tax rate at 61 cents this year and the rate should be about the same again next year.
A large portion of the riverboat funding at South Harrison is used for technology. Eastridge said the corporation purchased iPads for students in kindergarten through fifth grade to go along with the one-to-one computer initiative.
‘We’re really embracing technology,’ he said.
An e-learning coach is also staffed at South Harrison, Eastridge said, with a goal of helping teachers learn how to put the technology to use.
‘The worst thing would be to purchase it and then let it sit there and not use it,’ he said.
Eastridge said wireless infrastructure is in place and they’ve increased bandwidth tenfold in the last few years.
In other business, the council also heard from Harrison County Hospital officials, who said they plan to refinance debt, which will save more than $2 million in interest payments. Harrison County government had to act as the conduit to do that, they said.
‘From what you’re telling us, it’s a no brainer; we need to do it,’ Councilman Jim Heitkemper said.
The council’s next meeting will be Monday at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon.