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Instead of a giveback, District 2 offered spending ideas

RICHMOND – Some Nippersink District 2 parents don’t want their money back. They want to see the money go toward security and a laundry list of proposals.

The school board had been considering an abatement, on top of a flat levy, to give back some of $10.4 million the district has in reserve.

Some board members and the superintendent said the district can afford the improvements suggested at Tuesday’s meeting plus an abatement. Others said they want to see a long-term plan and how much proposals would cost before they start giving back money.

Of 45 or so visitors to the meeting, 13 spoke during the first comment period. Three favored the abatement.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, some parents said they want to see a security system installed that would require visitors to be buzzed into the building and would have a complete camera system.

The district is investigating such changes and, depending on the cost, the buzzer system could be installed over winter break, Superintendent Dan Oest said.

If the cost is above a certain amount, state law requires the district put the work out for competitive bid.

Ten parents who spoke against an abatement of taxes had other ideas of where the money could be used.

These weren’t the only suggestions made by the 10 parents who spoke against the abatement at Tuesday school board meeting.

Parent after parent, some of them also educators in other districts, said they would like to see a bigger investment in technology, restoration of the foreign language department, air conditioning at least in upstairs classrooms, and the return of other programs cut when the district was in financial straits.

One such parent, Holly Kelly, is president of the Spring Grove Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization and the English language learners coordinator at Harrison School District in Wonder Lake.

“There seems to be a real disconnect on the board,” Kelly said. “That concerns me. ... Some of you, it’s like the first time you’ve heard this. That concerns me.”

Trixy Hain lives in Johnsburg but owns Trixy’s Barbershop in Richmond. She said her property taxes have doubled the past year.

“How much more can we take?” she asked the board.

Thirty minutes of community input was followed by an hourlong discussion by the board. A second public input session lasted another 30 plus.

The discussion did not result in a vote on the abatement, but the board approved a flat levy. Because the district’s total assessed value is expected to drop, the flat levy still will result in a tax increase for most property owners.

Board member Sue Maurer, who said she could not vote yes on an abatement without more information, said declining enrollment will address at least one of the concerns brought forth by parents – the mobile classrooms at Spring Grove and Richmond elementary schools.

But it’s declining enrollment that made Mauer so concerned about the level of savings the district has, she said.

The board has until March to pass an abatement, Oest said, adding that it’s not possible to put together a full strategic plan in that amount of time.

District staff will see what they can put together before the next meeting, he said.

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