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updated: 1/28/2014 5:53 PM

Dist. 200 declares intent to issue $10 million in bonds

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The Wheaton Warrenville District 200 school board has adopted a resolution declaring its intent to issue $10 million in non-referendum bonds to complete critical facilities projects this summer.

If 10 percent of registered voters in the district's jurisdiction sign a petition before Feb. 24, the action could go to referendum. The bonds are scheduled to be issued on Feb. 26.

District officials said a study completed in 2013 identified about $30 million in facility needs throughout the district.

Those needs were prioritized and officials decided more than $6 million in projects need to be done as soon as possible at 18 of the district's 20 schools. The two schools not included are the newly built Hubble Middle School and Longfellow Elementary.

The projects focus on updating aged systems, improving learning environments and implementing energy savings, officials said. Wheaton North High School, Johnson Elementary and Emerson Elementary are all listed as high priority buildings.

Work that is scheduled to occur this year includes fire alarm system replacements at Bower, Pleasant Hill, Washington and Wiesbrook; new asphalt at Johnson, Madison and Whittier; carpeting removal at Edison, Franklin and Monroe middle schools; new lockers at Monroe; a track resurfacing at Wheaton North; and improvements to Circle Drive and the west faculty lot at Wheaton Warrenville South.

There also are plans for a roof replacement at Emerson Elementary and major mechanical system upgrades to most of the schools' heating, cooling and lighting systems.

"If we don't fix that Emerson roof ... it's going to create environmental issues in that building soon," Superintendent Brian Harris said. "If we don't have the repairs, we're going to have failing fire alarm systems in these buildings and our potential, our risk, is substantial for a major facility issue to occur."

Assistant Superintendent for Business Bill Farley said the district uses equipment "to its end," and it often takes longer than it should to complete upgrades.

"We don't replace things early," he said, using 25-year-old carpeting at Edison Middle School as an example. "We get the money's worth out of it and some of that's a function of availability of funds at the time."

Two residents spoke during last week's meeting, including Mary Ann Vitone of Wheaton, who said she was fed up with the number of times the district has issued bonds in the past 12 years.

"This is how this district has operated for years: tax and spend, borrow and spend," she said. "Stop adding debt to this district to pass on to the children you claim to care about."

Jan Shaw of Wheaton said she wants to see more spending cut before taxes are raised. She said the district needs to think more carefully about what is a priority.

"How come Jefferson is now on the back burner and we have $10 million we have to spend today?" she said, referring to the referendum the district held last year to borrow $17.6 million to fund construction for a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center.

Farley said the bond issuance will result in the owner of a $300,000 home paying about $12 more per year to the district for about five years.

Along with the bond issuance, the district is expected to refinance its existing debt payments, which Farley said will ultimately help taxpayers.

Currently, the district has debt that extends through levy year 2023, but the refinancing will push the debt to levy year 2025, reducing the annual debt payment from a peak of $29.1 million to $21 million.

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