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Hollis/Brookline voters set to debate school space issue

HOLLIS — Voters from Hollis and Brookline will have another chance to voice their thoughts on the topic of school space during a meeting tonight at Hollis/Brookline High School.

Citizens attending the cooperative school district’s annual meeting on March 3 rejected a $5.6 million bond item that would have funded an addition to the high school as well as a new, multi-purpose athletic field and improvements to the existing school facilities.

The item failed, with 727 of the 1,088 voters attending the meeting voting against it. However, a motion to reconsider the item was ultimately passed.The Hollis/Brookline Cooperative School Board and Budget Committee plans to bring forward a modified plan to voters during tonight’s continuation of the annual meeting.
Under state laws regulating town meetings, voters have the option of reconsidering any previous decisions, according to meeting moderator Jim Murphy.

“The budget committee had concerns about the amount itself and the fact that it was so heavily bonded,” Murphy said on Tuesday. “But the space issue still needs to be addressed.”
According to Darlene Mann, chairman of the budget committee, the amended proposal consists of an overall $2.42 million bond to cover the school addition and address sports fields that are considered by many to be unsafe.
Mann produced an informative flier to provide tax details to voters in the days leading up to tonight’s meeting.

If passed Wednesday night, the bond item would result in a tax impact of 3 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value for Hollis residents and 7 cents per thousand for Brookline residents.
During its March 19 meeting, the Hollis/Brookline Cooperative School Board reached a compromise, with the modified proposal now calling for a $2.2 million addition to address space issues raised by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
The high school could be placed on probation by the NEASC if it fails to address the problem by May 1.

Another $178,000 would be set aside to refurbish the school’s existing sports fields, a less-costly alternative to the $2.3 million synthetic turf field that was previously presented on March 3. Renovations to existing facilities would cost $50,000.
Tonight’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium at Hollis/Brookline High School. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary for the bond item to pass.

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