Round Lake Area Unit District 116 will go to voters next month seeking permission to borrow $29 million for a high school expansion and renovations to the current structure.
Proponents contend a debt restructuring would keep the current tax rate steady over time if the measure is approved at the ballot box March 18. The District 116 ballot wording does not ask the voters to approve a property tax hike and specifies the work that would be done at Round Lake High School.
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Under state law, District 116 can't use public money to promote a "yes" vote on the referendum question. That's why an outside committee has been established to tout potential benefits from expanding and making a variety of improvements to the high school.
Hainesville Trustee Georgeann Duberstein heads the Citizens for District 116 political action committee. She said a positive outcome on Election Day would mean "a great deal" to the district.
"I certainly think that from past (referendums), that people would expect the taxes would go up," Duberstein said Monday. "This is why the (school) board was very careful with what it would do to fit the budget."
District 116 officials say Round Lake High has a maximum capacity of 1,538 students. Use of portable classrooms has pushed the capacity to 1,712.
However, if voter approval is gained next month, Round Lake High's expansion and building upgrades would bring the maximum capacity to 2,288 students and allow removal of the portable classrooms, according to District 116. Part of the high school would be demolished to accommodate the new construction.
Specifically, the work would entail construction of 30 new classrooms, including four laboratories for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There also would be a new gymnasium to meet state physical education requirements and new student common areas.
Remodeling would occur in portions of the high school, with a new design to allow for quicker student circulation. Upgraded technology and security improvements would be part of the package.
District 116 would have to repay the $29 million loan with interest. The district would receive the money by selling bonds to investors. Officials said the bond-and-interest fund tax rate will increase this year to $1.75 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation regardless of what happens with the March 18 vote.
Rejection of the measure would mean an unspecified escalation of the bond-and-interest tax rate for the next five years, then a decline for seven years until debt is paid off. Passage of the question would result in a steady tax rate of $1.74 per $100 of assessed valuation for 15 years through the proposed debt restructuring.
District 116's referendum question has yet to attract public opposition. The Citizens for District 116 proponents plan to gather at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hainesville village hall.