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updated: 10/27/2010 11:23 PM

Medinah residents learn about tax increase request

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Several dozen Medinah residents gathered Wednesday night to learn more about why the Medinah School District 11 wants permission to borrow $8 million for building upgrades at two schools and to eliminate a third.

Grass-roots groups have been pushing campaigns both for and against the measure, and some residents on Wednesday said they needed more information.

Joe Stockhausen and his wife, who have five children attending schools in District 11, said he had not received many details about the referendum before Wednesday.

"The first thing I saw about it was a 'vote no' sign, but I hadn't' heard anything telling me why to vote yes," Stockhausen said.

Parents like Stockhausen learned the majority of money would fund construction of a wing at Medinah Intermediate School, 7N330 Medinah Road, that would house the district's primary school. The existing Medinah Primary building at 22W300 Sunnyside would be eliminated.

The remaining money would fund major renovations to Medinah Middle School, 700 East Granville Ave.

Officials said, if approved, school district property taxes would increase by roughly $156 a year for the owner of a $350,000 home.

Superintendent Joseph Bailey said community members have been involved in the process of creating this referendum for five years. And recent efforts have included phone surveys, e-mails and mailings seeking feedback.

He added that he met personally with several community groups and individuals, some who mistakenly believe the borrowed money could be used for other purposes like negotiating raises for teachers.

"By law that cannot happen," Bailey said. "We would be acting illegally and we would be sanctioned. I think there's a paranoia out there and we have worked to address every concern."

If voters approve the tax increase, one administrative position and several office workers would be eliminated due to the merger. Officials also are unsure if the old Medinah Primary building would be sold or leased. The decision process would not begin until construction begins next summer.

Other funds from the proposed tax increase would pay for security upgrades at Medinah Middle School, which lacks a mandatory checkpoint visitors must pass before they can reach students.

Officials also say the drop-off area in front of Medinah Middle is a safety hazard due to heavy traffic and must be expanded.

Bob Brandl, a member of the Medinah Homeowners Association, said he is in favor of the tax increase "after a lot of careful consideration."

"I think having two schools instead of three will save some taxpayer money in the long run, we've just got to get it started," Brandl said.