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posted: 3/22/2013 5:00 AM

Endorsement: Yes for new school building in Butler Dist. 53

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Butler Elementary District 53 is asking residents to vote "yes" on two April 9 ballot questions for a new school building to avert high costs of maintaining its current one. The first question asks for approval to borrow $15 million for a proposed $40 million K-8 facility on land owned by the village of Oak Brook. The second would grant the village permission to sell Sports Core land to the district so the new school could be built on 8.5 acres near Oak Brook Public library.

While there are a handful of Oak Brook residents who are concerned about the request for additional tax revenue and the need for a new school, no organized opposition has surfaced. Rather, organized support has grown for both propositions, which suggests the spending has been carefully thought out and mostly embraced by residents. Citizens for A Better Oak Brook, a political action committee formed to support approval of both ballot questions, held several forums this month featuring overviews of the plan from school board President Alan Hanzlik.

This open discourse, along with the fact that the district is asking voters for $15 million after contributing $25 million toward the cost of the proposed new school, are pluses to us. We also like that the district did its research on renovation costs at Brook Forest Elementary and Butler Junior High. About $12 million would need to be spent over the next 10 years to keep the current buildings safe and functional, according to Hanzlik.

The schools, built in 1971 and 1958, respectively, are old, and investing money in older buildings might not be the best use of funds.

A cost comparison on the district's website does an impressive job of explaining how building and maintaining a 120,000-square-foot school would save the district money over 50 years. It also shows a diagram of how the new facility would sit on the Sports Core land. Available land is an issue in Oak Brook, and it has us wondering -- if a new school is necessary now or in the future, what land other than Sports Core land is available? This village property seems like the best option for something so important as a school.

The proposal would produce tax increase of about $374 a year for the owner of a $1 million home. The district's research and cost comparisons are impressive and make sense fiscally. It's an investment in our children, their education and their safety.

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