Libertyville voters who will decide whether to raise taxes to save and rehab a nearly century-old local landmark now have more detailed information to use in making their choice.
Years of general discussion and debate regarding the future of the former Libertyville High School, known as the Brainerd building, have come into clearer focus with images and other information used to illustrate the vision pursued for seven years by a not-for-profit group.
Supporters of converting the long-vacant building -- and village officials who approved putting the question on the March 18 ballot but are not taking a position -- are intent on ensuring voters know what they would get for their money.
Voters will decide whether to authorize the village to issue up to $11.5 million in bonds to convert the former school at Brainerd Avenue and Route 176 into a self-sustaining destination for weddings, banquets, local theater and other uses -- most notably as the new home of the Libertyville Civic Center, which is expected to be a point of contention.
Supporters say taxpayers would be making an investment in the community and would save from demolition an asset that can't be replaced. For the owner of a $300,000 home, property taxes would increase by about $142 a year for each of the next 10 years.
Nearly the entire edition of the most recent village newsletter, which was posted Monday at www.libertyville.com and will be mailed to all homes in about a week, is devoted to the proposal being pursued by Brainerd Community Center Inc.
Information spanning seven pages includes a history of the building and of the proposal, benefits if the tax increase is approved or denied, a listing of the projected income and expenses for the new community center, potential impact on village finances, and estimated tax increase based on home value.
That comes in advance of town hall meetings on Feb. 3, Feb. 12 and March 6 to outline the pros and cons, provide detailed information including financials, and answer questions regarding the plan.
"There are a lot of people with misinformation still. I want to make sure (that) gets cleaned up," Mayor Terry Weppler said. "There are many, many people who don't understand the (adjoining) Jackson Gym will come down." Residents also mistakenly think the school and gym, if both were to be demolished, would be replaced with offices or houses, he said.
Also, Brainerd Community Center Inc., which has fallen far short of raising private funds for the project during its seven-year existence, has ample information on its website, www.savebrainerd.org/ and is gearing up for a hard pitch.
"We're ready to get out and inform the public," said John Snow, who graduated from the school in 1961 and is a member of the Brainerd group. "We've got the design done. The visioning of what they're buying with their tax dollars will be a lot easier because they'll have the images."
The buildings are owned by Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 and leased to the village, which in turn subleases them to the Brainerd group. Should the tax increase be rejected, the village would need to notify District 128 by Aug. 1 that the lease is being terminated and it would be responsible for a portion of demolition and asbestos remediation costs. The group estimates the cost at about $650,000.
The Civic Center is owned by the village and leased to the Libertyville Civic Center Foundation, which operates the center and rents space to charitable groups. It is home to the Libertyville senior center.
The board of directors recently voted 10-1, with five abstentions and two members absent, to not move to a revamped Brainerd. But any move would be decided by the village board.