The Palatine-Schaumburg District 211 board unanimously agreed Thursday to issue $16 million in life safety bonds.
Prior to the approval, two people in the audience made comments about the bonds.
"With excessively high fund balances, double the state recommendation and double those of our elementary District 15, there is plenty of money for the life safety projects," said Palatine resident Vicki Wilson, adding that concerns about the possibility of pension burdens being shifted to school districts in the future still didn't justify the bonds. "What is the real reason for stashing away all this money and to pay interest for the privilege?"
Joe Heater of Palatine said that since he spoke out against the bonds at the last meeting he was able to meet with Superintendent Nancy Robb and Associate Superintendent for Business David Torres, whom he thanked for explaining the bonds further.
"Although we didn't reach common ground, we had a good discussion," he said. "I think we both learned some things."
Heater said he still felt that it was unnecessary to borrow money, and he asked each board member to explain the way he or she voted on the issue.
Although the district has enough money to cover the work in its reserves, Robb offered some reasons she believes the bonds are "the fiscally prudent, long-term financial decision."
She explained how just two years ago the district had to use 50 percent of its fund balance to pay bills because tax payments came in so late from the state. The uncertainty of proposed changes in legislation regarding the tax cap law and pensions is also concerning, Robb said.
"Many of them could have a very adverse effect on our overall financial situation," she said, adding that the district must also deal with using 2 to 3 percent of its total tax levy each year to refund big area businesses that have won multimillion dollar property tax appeals.
In addition to the life safety work, the district has also identified more than $22 million in capital improvements at its five high schools, such as a new districtwide phone system and swimming pool renovations, which Robb said will be funded with existing reserves.
In response to people who have questioned if the school district is operating efficiently and trying to cut costs, Robb noted $6.5 million in reductions made in 2005 that have been maintained every year since then. There have also been additional cuts in more recent years and a reduction in the debt service, she said, adding that the issuance of these new bonds will not result in an increase of the tax rate.
Board members Richard Gerber, Anna Klimkowicz, Bill Robertson and Edward Yung also explained why they chose to vote "yes" on the bonds. Robertson noted that not selling bonds now could result in big tax increases in the future, while Klimkowicz said she was saying yes because of the importance of keeping buildings well-maintained. She noted, however, that she would like to see the board throughly review other funding options for the second half of the life safety work, which amounts to about $10 million more.
Gerber added that the future of $5 million in general state aid the district receives annually is also in jeopardy, while Yung said there are some ways the district will save money by issuing bonds.
Board President Robert LeFevre and board member George Brandt did not make any comments. Board member Mucia Burke was absent.