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posted: 2/23/2014 1:01 AM

Endorsement: No on borrowing for Brainerd upgrade

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We are ardent supporters of efforts to preserve suburban history, particularly stately old buildings. For seven years, we have watched such an effort in Libertyville involving the venerable Brainerd Building. Supporters want to turn the former Libertyville High School into a community center -- a unique, flexible and up-to-date facility that would support local theater and provide banquet and meeting space. They are worthwhile uses for this historic structure. Yet, even knowing the emotional attachment Brainerd has for many, we cannot support the referendum on the March 18 ballot. The proposal would authorize, but not obligate, the village to issue $11.5 million in bonds to renovate the facility. The issuance would require a 10-year property tax hike. For the owner of a $300,000 house, that's about $142 per year, based on the village's 2012 tax rate. If the measure fails, Brainerd likely will be demolished by its owner, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128. Adjoining Jackson Gym will be torn down regardless of the outcome. There are several reasons for our position. We believe the community has spoken with its weak support during years of private fundraising. To now pass the cost to taxpayers would be unfair. The project's business plan relies on several groups operating at the village's Civic Center to move to Brainerd. Some, including Civic Center officials, are opposed. The bond sale would cover construction, debt service, back rent and two lease payments. The village would pay any future operating shortfall. What's left is too much financial risk for the village and taxpayers. We recommend a "No" vote.

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