The District 113 School Board voted unanimously last month to put an $89 million referendum on the April ballot to pay for five years' worth of projects for Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools.
Though the vote is months away, already Patch readers and bloggers are discussing their opinions at length.
In a blog post entitled "History Repeats Itself in District 113," Michelle Holleman puts the referendum in a historical context, comparing this vote to a similar one decided in Highland Park a century ago.
"The investments made in 1914 were good ones, maintained for 100 years," she writes. "But the time has come to ask, can we do better for our kids? And the answer is a resounding yes."
Not everyone is so sure, however. Some feel that the school board should have been making these renovations on an annual basis.
"The real issue is the failure of the school board to put aside money for maintaining the two school on an annual basis," writes Daniel. "A responsible property owner does that. Now were hit with an enormous capital call. Still, there does not seem to be any plans for future to do just that, plan for the future."
Reader Ken Robertson disagreed with that perspective.
"Let's stop pretending that this project is due to 'lack of maintenance.' It's like making the argument that your 50-year old car should still run like new because you changed the oil!"
The plan is projected to cost $114 million. Of that total, $25 million will come from the district's reserve funds and the remaining $89 million will come from District 113 residents. If the referendum passes, District 113 residents who own homes valued at $300,000 will pay $173 in taxes to the district in levy year 2013, a $47 increase from levy year 2012. If the referendum fails, those same homeowners would only pay $15 in taxes to District 113 in 2014 because the District paid off a significant amount of its debt this year. The 10-year average price residents have paid to District 113 in taxes is $198 annually, according to District 113's financial advisor, Tammie Schallmo, with PMA Securities.
One user felt it was the district's responsibility to save for these pricier renovations rather than ask the taxpayers for help.
"I don't expect [District 113] to come to me and ask for a referendum to build up reserves for future projects," writes Walter White. "I expect them to build up these reserves as a matter of course! Manage your budget! Make do with the money you have!"
Other readers spoke more highly of the way the District has managed its schools.
"If not for the effective and sensible stewardship, the problems faced, and needs to be addressed would be far greater," writes Brad. "Our pools are vastly inadaquate and some of the mechanicals are 70+ years old. Its time to be invest in our community."
One commenter was Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther, who made made one of the presentations to the school board at the meeting where they approved to place the referendum on the ballot. He tried to assuage readers' concerns that the district would keep coming back for more money from taxpayers even if this project were voted for.
"I can't guarantee that the District won't come back with additional referenda. That, in large part, depends on the community's needs and desires," Hainsfurther writes. "However, it is our goal (and my belief) that the improvements will last the length of time we have set as a goal, as long as they are maintained properly (which I believe they will be) and infrastructure replaced at the end of its life cycle."
What do you think? Do you support or oppose the referendum? Leave a comment below or blog about it here.