The Ball Chatham School Board voted unanimously last night to ask voters to approve a construction referendum this fall. The plan won’t raise property taxes, at least for now. Ann Strahle has this report:
The support from the school board comes after a presentation last month from a task force called “Building on Excellence.” The chair of the task force, Reverend Kevin Anderson, said the district can extend its current bond repayment tax levy through 2030 to pay for the work. “So in other words the tax rate that was due to expire in 2019 will extend to 2030, and by doing that we can pay for the 35 million dollars in bonds to be able to do phases 2 and 3 of the 2020 strategic plan the school has,” Anderson said.
He added if the growth of the school district stays above a certain level, nearly 3 percent, residents will not have to pay higher taxes for the estimated 35 million dollar construction project.
” Which to be honest with you is very conservative. our lowest growth in the last 20 years was last year at about a 3.1 percent increase.”
School board member Linda Carter agrees that depending on continued growth in the school district population is reasonable.
“Every time you drive through Chatham, you see holes in the ground, new homes being built, new construction and commercial construction that will affect our EAV (Equlized Assessed Valuation), so I think we will make it.”
The multi-phase building plan includes additions to Glenwood Intermediate School, Glenwood High School, Glenwood Elementary school, as well as the demolition and replacement of the 1926 section of Ball Elementary School. “The school board has 2 funds, education and building, we are looking at strictly building funds with this one. But there may come a time, with the situation Illinois is in now, to look at education funds, but right now with this continued growth, we feel we can add this space, but also keep up with the education costs that go along with it,” Reverend Anderson said. He points out Glenwood Intermediate is already over capacity, and even though Glenwood Elementary is a brand-new school that opened last fall, the plans to expand it were already in place before its construction.
“When that was passed it was agreed that we would only use reserves to build that and in order to do that there had to be some cuts and again the board was very up front about that and said right away, this is going to be close to capacity when it opens. And so, it was going to be part of this next phase is the addition for that.”
There has been a great deal of concern and protest from residents concerning phase 4 of the strategic plan, which calls for the construction of a pool in or near the high school. It was emphasized by Anderson and the task force that phase 4 is not part of this referendum. “The pool is not on the table, and the board tonight was adamant about that , they have been adamant about that in all our conversations on that, the pool is off the table completely. This is looking strictly at phases 2 and 3, and part of these phases is also some health, life safety issues. These are things through evaluations, through inspections, these are things that have to be done by law, been identified, out of the 35 million, it’s about 30 percent. about 10 million is health, life safety.”
Now it’s up the voters in November as board member Linda Carter explains.
“We support the referendum committee and what they are doing, and are behind them. As a board of education we cannot participate in it, we can recommend, give it our stamp of approval, and leave it up to them and the voters in our community.”