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Article updated: 11/5/2013 11:47 AM

Round Lake Dist. 116 studies expanding high schools without tax bite

Round Lake High was built for 1,370 students, but it now houses about 2,055 teenagers.

Round Lake High was built for 1,370 students, but it now houses about 2,055 teenagers.

 

STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer

Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston

 
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Round Lake Area Unit District 116 may be able to keep the hit on taxpayers to a minimum if millions of dollars are borrowed for a proposed high school expansion and renovation, a consultant told officials Monday.

District 116 school board finance committee members received a presentation on debt structuring options for a possible $29 million loan that would be obtained through bond sales to investors. Board members will decide if the borrowing question should be put to voters in a March referendum.

Specifically how much money would be needed for the project should be known by the next finance committee session in December, said Bill Johnston, District 116's assistant superintendent for business.

Tammie Beckwith Schallmo, managing director of financial consultant PMA Securities Inc., told elected officials that an extra 3 cents likely would be levied on residents for the bond-and-interest fund tax rate if voters authorize borrowing the $29 million. She said it would cost an owner of a $200,000 market value home an extra $16 annually on the tax bill.

"We can say, as a district, our (debt) payments will be pretty level for the next five to six years," Schallmo said.

Johnston said financial projections are being made based on a forecast 6 percent drop in District 116's equalized assessed valuation. He said the district could have a "difficult time" maintaining a steady tax rate if the valuation declines more than expected.

Round Lake High was built for 1,370 students, but it now houses about 2,055 teenagers, according to the district. Two portable buildings are being used, and students are on two daily schedules.

As part of the district's long-range facilities plan, the school board approved exploring construction of an addition to include at least 33 classrooms to address crowding and improving the existing structure.

District documents show the design goals include a desire for delivering "21st century learning" with upgraded technology, thermal comfort, sustainability and improved air quality.

Community forums have been held on the plan, with the next set for Dec. 3. School board members are to receive final design plans next month.

In January, District 116 board members decided against placing a referendum on last spring's ballot about whether to borrow $36 million for expansion and other improvements at the high school.

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