District 308 Takes Next Step in Borrowing $14.1 Million
Nov 21, 2016 08:26PM ● Published by Steven Jack
The School Board voted 4-1 at its meeting last week to take the first step in selling the $14.1 million in bonds, which is to publish a notice of their intention to hold a public hearing next month for the bond sale.
If the School Board were to issue the bonds, the owner of a $200,000 home in the district would see an average increase of about $24 in their tax bill over what they paid this year, officials have said. The bond would be retired within five years.
Taxpayers objecting to the sale will have 30 days to get 10 percent of district's 42,000 registered voters to sign a petition that would then require a referendum vote for the bond sale.
The approximate $4 million in technology improvements needed in the district include the replacement of antiquated servers, telephone services and wifi hardware. On the capital projects side, about $10 million is needed for several large-scale projects across the district. The first is $3 million in construction costs to move the district's special education programs into the Brokaw Early Learning Center.
Another $726,000 is needed to move the Brokaw pre-kindergarten programs to Eastview Elementary School, which currently houses the all-day kindergarten center. Both projects are precipitated by the district's plan to move all kindergarten students back to their home schools by the 2017-18 school year.
Board member Greg O'Neil voiced his displeasure over the bond sale, saying taxpayers deserve a voice in the district borrowing of such a large amount of money. He warned this bond sale will hurt the district when it comes time to borrow money for future projected budget shortfalls.
"In a year or two when you really do need the public to come out in favor of a referendum, you greatly reduce your odds by doing this," he said. "It's jut not good public policy."
Board Member Danielle Paul argued taxpayers do have the opportunity to force a referendum through petition.
O'Neil said the odds of success for such a petition were that of "hell freezing over."
"The burden of proof should be on us," he said.
Board Member Jared Ploger again vented his frustration over the state's inability to pass a budget and what that means for education funding, especially in District 308 where large budget deficits are projected if the state doesn't act to fully fund education.
"We can't shield the students forever from our poorly run state," Ploger said.