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‘Race’ on for Morgan school project

Dr. Phil Partenheimer told the North Harrison Community School Corp. board of trustees last week he had received the petition against the Morgan Elementary School project and will work with Lance Richards, principal at MES, on ‘how best to proceed with the remonstrance petition race.’
At the July 8 meeting, Partenheimer said the petition delays the project by at least 90 days, which works to the school corporation’s favor by allowing ‘two years of padding, if you will,’ of the Capital Projects fund and providing a $4 million downpayment on the estimated $15 million project.
‘I’m trying to tailor my recommendation … based on criticisms I’ve heard,’ he said.
Under his plan to renovate Morgan, which was built in 1950 and last remodeled in 1974, property owners in the North Harrison school district ‘ Blue River, Jackson, Morgan and Spencer townships ‘ would see their tax rate, not necessarily their tax bill, remain unchanged because the re-payment of a school bond will be made in 2011 and the last payment for the North Harrison High School project will be made in 2013. The project also prevents the need to rent or buy portable classrooms to alleviate overcrowding at MES.
‘You’re paying the same amount of taxes, getting the project done, saving a lot of money and delaying the project for three years while the high school is still on the books,’ Partenheimer said.
To those who questioned the appearance that the project is being rushed through, the superintendent explained the urgency by saying he does not want the project to be decided by the voters at the election poll.
‘Surrounding states don’t build anymore,’ Partenheimer said, because the school corporations don’t have any money to put down on a project and because taxpayers vote ‘No’ when no one knows how they vote.
Because NHCSC held its required 1028 Hearing before July 1, the new state law requiring a voter referendum does not apply to the MES project at this time.
‘So, yes, there is an urgency,’ said Partenheimer.
Richards said, ‘I don’t feel that what you’re being presented with is a rushed project’ as architects visited with each staff member at MES and then presented a proposal of what could be done with the school that also has safety issues and no ground for expansion.
In response to a comment by Partenheimer that taxes will continue to go up but hopefully residents’ income will also increase, Dan Haskell, a teacher in the school corporation, pointed out that he’s not making more money because the teacher contract dispute is nearing its fifth year. Haskell also noted that North Harrison Middle School is in need of repair and closing the upper elementary school a few years ago was not in the best interest of students.
‘The board ought to be able to do some creative financing to settle all debt,’ he said.
Partenheimer is expected to advertise the school project, which will signal the start of a 30-day period where both sides of the building plan gather as many signatures as possible; if more people object to the project than those who favor it, a referendum will be held, allowing all voters in the school district to have a say whether the project will be allowed.
Also at last week’s meeting, the board was reorganized because of the May 6 Primary election. New board members Michael Beyerle and Jerry Renneker took the oath office at the start of the meeting.
Bobby Chinn, who was elected board president, said, ‘I know the people want answers. I want answers.’
Gary Byrne was elected vice president, and Fred Naegele was elected secretary.