Deerfield, Highland Park to face $89M bond issue in April for District 113
Township High School District 113 Board President Harvey Cohen reads the statement of a board member who could not be present at the Jan. 7 meeting to discuss the referendum proposal.| Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 15, 2013 8:40PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Township High School District 113 will ask voters in April to authorize $89 million in bonds to finance the most urgent facility improvements detailed in the district’s new master plan for Highland Park and Deerfield high schools.
The School Board voted Monday to put the question on the April 9 ballot, concluding months of deliberations that started soon after voters rejected a $133-million appeal two years ago.
While some $120 million in projects were tagged as high priority, the district plans to finance about $25 million of the cost from its ongoing capital budget at a rate of $5 million per year over five years.
Professionals who served on the citizens’ steering committee believe another $6 million can be pared from the total through cost-conscious engineering.
The largest chunk of money, about $38 million, would be spent on basic infrastructure, such as heating, cooling and ventilation systems; electrical systems; plumbing and lighting. Another $4 million would be spent on technology cabling and $3.5 million on windows.
New eight-lane swimming pools with diving wells and new multipurpose gymnasiums would be built at both the Deerfield and Highland Park campuses.
Steering committee member Walter Hainsfurther said the panel concluded that refurbishing the pools did not make economic sense. He noted the pools are used from 5 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. at night by members of the community. “The is a community asset in my opinion,” he said.
Financial consultant Tammie Beckwith Schallmo estimated the owner of a $600,000 home would pay about $358 in property taxes for the district’s bond debt on 2013 tax bills paid in 2014, if the referendum passes and the bonds are repaid over 20 years in equal installments. The owner of a $300,000 home would pay about $173.
Schallmo said the district could ask the legislature for permission to repay the bonds over, say, 25 years, which would lower annual payments but increase the total cost of the borrowing.
Frank Pirri — chair of the Education First in 113, the organized group that opposed the 2011 referendum — contended the district has put out misleading figures suggesting the referendum would increase taxes by $47 for the owner of a home valued at $300,000. That figure represents the incremental increase the first year.
While voters rejected the 2011 referendum 57 to 43 percent, supporter Rick Heineman expressed optimism about the prospects for success this time.
“The primary criticism of the 2011 referendum was that it wasn’t a good plan,” said Heineman. “We spent the last two years developing a community-based plan.”
“People in this community really contributed millions of dollars to this effort,” said Hainsfurther, of the countless hours spent by citizens who served on committees.
Said Superintendent George Fornero, “We couldn’t afford the services that have were provided to us.”
The school board has scheduled two community meetings at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 23, and 10 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 24, to explain the referendum proposal. Both meetings will take place at Deerfield High School, 1959 Waukegan Road, Deerfield.