“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
“Upon the subject of education…I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as people may be engage in.”
Importance of Education and Fiscal Stability
As we embark upon a new school year, the importance of education continues to grow in order for students to be successful in this complex and ever-changing world. Recently, the Illinois legislature realized the need to fund education by passing a stop-gap one-year budget so all schools in the state would be able to open and operate. Our district’s focus is to keep raising academic excellence while sustaining long-term fiscal stability.
Planning to Meet Student Needs & Being Fiscally Responsible
In my last letter, I mentioned efforts are underway to develop plans to address educational programs, safety and security, and facility improvement needs. Also, the restructuring of debt is being targeted so taxes could be decreased.
Educational Programming, Safety and Security & Facility Improvement
The planning began at the July 27, 2015 school board retreat, and the creation of the plans has been conducted with the involvement of the district’s stakeholders and communicated openly. The activities are chronicled on a timeline for developing and implementing the Capital Projects Plan and are listed in the News section on the district’s website. A summary of the planning process, proposed projects and financing options are explained below. A detailed description can also be accessed on the district’s website under the News section.
Examples of projects addressing educational programming include updating three Benjamin Middle School science labs, purchasing two portable science labs for Evergreen Elementary School, renovating the Evergreen Elementary School cafeteria to also serve as a large-group instruction room, upgrading the technology infrastructure, and replacing the student computer devices.
Samples of safety and security projects include reconfiguring the Evergreen Elementary School front entrance to better control entry to the building, upgrading the burglar system and interfacing it with the security system at both schools, and installing an elevator/lift at Benjamin Middle School so there is access to the second floor for students, staff and visitors with mobility issues. Also, specified sections of the roofs and blacktop/playgrounds that are nearing life expectancy would be replaced.
One facility project is to replace the interior fluorescent light fixtures that are much more energy efficient and last longer. The exterior lights have been upgraded over the past three years.
Every five to six years, bonds have been sold to fund capital projects since the needs exceed the annual budget revenue. In 2005, bonds were used to pay for Phase 1 of the heating and air conditioning project for sections of both schools. The remaining parts of the schools, except the middle school large gym, were completed in Phase 2 in 2012 along with security projects. In 2017-2018, there will be a timely opportunity to sell bonds and lower the debt service tax rate by about 16 percent. This means that the owner of a house assessed at $250,000 would experience an estimated $73 annual tax decrease.
The types of bonds would be 1) a petition bond of $2 million sold in February 2017, and 2) a combination of life safety bond and referendum bond for $4.9 million sold in February 2018, based on the outcome of the April 4, 2017 referendum. A detailed timeline for selling these bonds is shown in the News section on the district’s website.
We Value Your Input
Your feedback continues to be sought regarding the plan to fund these projects to meet the needs of our students in a fiscally responsible manner. Feel free to call or email me to discuss any suggestions, questions, or concerns that you may have. My contact information is listed on the back page.
Philip M. Ehrhardt, Ed.D.