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NH plans to renovate MES with no new taxes

The North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees took action Thursday night in preparation of renovating Morgan Elementary School.
The five-member board voted unanimously to keep school taxes ‘neutral’ while paying for the project, estimated at $15 million, in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Property taxes will be neutralized by lowering local property taxes in the Capital Projects Fund and/or the Bus Replacement Fund by the same amount required to pay the bond on the school project, except in 2013, when the local property taxes in one or both of those funds will be lowered to pay the bond on the last payment of North Harrison High School.
But, whether MES gets an update anytime soon has yet to be determined. A remonstrance was filed to halt the project. The next step in the process is a 30-day signature-gathering contest. Both supporters and objectors will gather signatures between Aug. 28 and Sept. 26; the side with the most determines if the project is a go this school year or not.
Morgan Elementary, which has an enrollment of about 500 students, has not been updated since 1974. Dr. Phil Partenheimer, superintendent of the school system, and MES Principal Lance Richards said the building is overcrowded and has safety issues.
Some people, like Lorna Wenning, support the project.
‘We as a community need to come together,’ said Wenning, a graduate of North Harrison High School who is now a teacher at MES, referring to the lack of a new teacher contract for the school corporation. (This is the start of the fifth year since the old contract expired.)
‘We’re tutoring (students) wherever we can find because we’re out of room’ at Morgan, she said. ‘The cleanliness (of the school) camouflages the space issues.’
But Greg Rupp, president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association and a teacher at North Harrison Elementary, which is nearing a renovation project, said in a statement the day after the meeting that Partenheimer and the school trustees are ‘using smoke and mirrors to hide money and deceive the public’ by not settling the teacher contract.
‘They are doing the same thing in regards to the Morgan building project and the taxes that will be due,’ he said.
Partenheimer, in a phone interview Friday, said an offer to the teachers includes a $400,000 stipend to be divided among them, which would amount to about 5 percent of their salary, and a 2-percent increase in their pay retroactive to July 1, 2008.
‘There’s still the severance bond (issue) that needs to be settled,’ he said, before a contract would be ratified, as well as reaching an agreement regarding a buy-out for early retirement.
Ron Zink, NHCTA vice president, said at last week’s meeting that he is hopeful the bargaining team could meet soon to discuss the latest offer and hopefully resolve the lack of a new contract soon.