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updated: 2/14/2014 6:03 PM

Dist. 200 board reviews bond amount, other funding for projects

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Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 is moving ahead with plans to issue $10 million in non-referendum bonds this spring to fund improvements at some of its buildings.

At last month's school board meeting, there were questions about the bond amount and if some existing reserves should be used to pay for critical facilities projects -- including upgraded fire alarm systems and new asphalt and carpeting -- that are scheduled for this summer.

"We are being frugal and prudent in our use of our operational funds here. Nevertheless we face this budget issue every year, of balancing our budget," board member Jim Vroman said, adding that there is a projected $1.5 million deficit in the 2014-15 budget that staff is working to avoid.

"If we are going to have capital improvements ... those funds will necessarily have to come from bond sales," he said.

While he would like to see funding for capital projects come out of the operating budget, board member Jim Mathieson said there are nearly $80 million in building improvements -- including about $6 million in critical projects -- that need be done, and they simply can't be completed without issuing bonds. He said he hopes, however, that the district will be careful about picking which projects are funded first.

"We will always have debt in the district and if it isn't building a new building, it's when the buildings get old and start deteriorating and we have to fix them," he said.

Board member Rosemary Swanson said she agreed with the recommendations of the board's finance committee.

"Because our buildings are old, by issuing bonds, to my mind, it allows the cost of that building maintenance to be spread across the people who will use those buildings in the future," she said. "I feel it's a more equitable way of looking at the ongoing refreshment of our buildings."

One resident, Susan Booton of Wheaton, said she felt issuing the bonds was not a burden, but instead a well-planned investment.

"Whether you have children in the public school system or not, it is in everybody's best interest to keep the school's in good condition, as schools are what draw young families to a community and keep the city thriving," she said.

The board is holding a special meeting on Feb. 26 to approve a resolution to implement a debt restructuring plan along with the $10 million bond issuance.

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.

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