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Nippersink District 2 debating tax abatement

RICHMOND – As the Nippersink District 2 school board weighed whether to issue a tax abatement, discussion centered on whether the district could afford to give back money and still meet all of its goals.

It can, Superintendent Dan Oest said.

But board member Mindy Ross said she still isn’t comfortable and that she wants to know what “all” means when some members said they think the district can “do it all.”

She pointed to maintenance projects such as security upgrades, replacing doors and sinks, and replacing some ventilation systems to include air conditioning. Ross said the list “may only be scratching the surface,” adding that it doesn’t address the district’s technology goals.

The projects add up to about $800,000, board Secretary Pierre Langlois said.

There is more than $1 million in the operations and maintenance fund, board member Sue Maurer said.

The district has $10.4 million in reserve, Maurer said, and has suggested a $3 million abatement. She is not, however, stuck on that number, she said.

Other board members and parents who spoke at the meeting addressed security concerns and bringing back the foreign language program and other curriculum improvements.

The district is addressing some such concerns.

A survey will go out to staff and parents to gauge interest in a foreign language program and at what grade level it should be started. D-2 also has been researching the cost of security improvements, Oest said.

The board has been working to bring back some programs that were cut when the district was in financial straits. It was about $2.1 million in debt in 2004, according to records.

Board member Matt Johnson agreed with Ross in that he, too, would like to see a more comprehensive plan.

Ross also proposed a facilities audit to get a better picture of when things will need to be replaced and the costs. She said she would need such information to vote for a tax abatement, and because she doesn’t expect answers by an early March deadline, she likely will vote no.

Johnson essentially is at the same point, he said.

Two other board members – Langlois and Board Vice President Sharon Bianchini – said they need time to think over an abatement and asked that a decision be put off until closer to the deadline.

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