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Tax abatement motion fails at school district level

WORTHINGTON -- Members of the Worthington School District 518 Board approved a levy of $4,885,083 payable for 2012 Tuesday night, following a committee recommendation that would reduce the levied amount by $250,000.

Board member Mark Shepherd said the reduction was based on projections that show the district can afford the reduction and keep a promise made to taxpayers.

"Just because we are allowed to legally max the levy doesn't mean we have to," agreed board member Scott Rosenberg.

The only dissenting vote for the levy amount came from member Steve Schnieder, who said he was concerned about a lack of funds if the state doesn't pay what he termed an IOU to the school district.

"An IOU is a worthless piece of paper when you have no plans to pay it back," Schnieder stated.

A motion made by Schnieder to approve a tax abatement proposal for new houses built within the district with a value of more than $200,000 was opposed by the majority of the board, with the only other vote for approval coming from member Lori Dudley.

Before the vote, Schnieder said new home builders would get a break initially, then be added to the tax rolls.

"It's worth trying for a short period of time, and should reduce people's property taxes in the long run," he stated. "If no houses are built, then there is no change. It's a process worth trying to see if it increases (taxes). We'd be better off as a community in the long run."

Rosenberg said he agreed with what Schnieder said, but only if the tax abatement was district-wide instead of just in the city of Worthington. The city recently approved the abatement plan, but Nobles County has opted not to participate, according to Superintendent John Landgaard.

Board member Joel Lorenz was open to the idea of a tax abatement plan at first, he said, but changed his mind after numerous comments from those opposed. Participating would send the wrong message, public relations-wise, he added. He wanted to pass, stating that he had received too many contacts from people opposed to the idea, and none who supported it.

Offering a slightly different look at the situation, Shepherd stated the plan was not an incentive to create tax breaks for the wealthy, but the amount of houses for sale in the city in a multitude of price ranges showed the idea didn't have much chance for success.

Schnieder made the motion to approve the plan as the city had approved it, and was seconded by Dudley, but they were the only two who voted in support of the motion.

The board also:

* Approved a motion to expel a student who had made terroristic threats, according to Landgaard. The student had waived his right to a hearing, and the administration recommended expulsion with a possible return date next fall.

* Approved the hiring of a 1.0 FTE EL Coordinator position, a 1.0 FTE EL teacher position and a .33 FTE language arts teacher.

* Approved employment of Natali Ramirez and Kokeb Tawso as .25 FTE graduation coach with the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, Kellyn Cano as program aide with Community Education, Rosemary Loveless as long-term substitute at the high school, Rhina Galvez as .53 FTE special education paraprofessional at the ALC and program assistant at the middle school EDGE program.

* Approved the resignation of Eric Walerius as 21st Century Community Learning Center program coordinator, Kristin Walerius as teacher with the EDGE program and Pam Masterbergen as dishwasher at Prairie Elementary.

* Approved Ryan Price as girls basketball volunteer coach, Tom Ahlberg as girls hockey volunteer coach and Ben Weber as Robotics volunteer coach.