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updated: 2/27/2014 6:43 PM

Dist. 200 OKs issuing more than $9 million in bonds

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Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 will issue nearly $9.6 million in bonds to help pay for "critical" facility improvements.

The school board agreed to issue the bonds Wednesday, with only member Jim Gambaiani voting no.

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Gambaiani said over the past six years the district's average annual expenditure on capital projects has been around $300,000.

"I'm hoping that during the budgeting process this year that number is more like $2 million, $3 million," he said. "We've got to find it somewhere so that as we're moving forward, this really becomes part of that discipline, that we have to earmark money much greater than what we're doing today."

Five firms submitted bids for the bonds Wednesday morning. Raymond James Financial won and the interest rate was set at 2.45 percent, which was less than the financial adviser's estimate of 2.89 percent.

"You really sold at a good time," said Robert Lewis, the district's financial adviser and managing director of public finance for PMA Securities.

Lewis said the timing was good partly because the demand for municipal bonds, especially bank qualified bonds like District 200's, is higher than the supply.

In January, the board declared its intent to issue up to $10 million in non-referendum bonds to pay for fire alarm system replacements, new asphalt and carpeting removal at multiple schools this summer. The money also will fund a roof replacement at Emerson Elementary, new lockers at Monroe Middle School and track resurfacing at Wheaton North, among other projects.

Some residents said they opposed the bond issue because they felt it was the result of bad planning.

"It's always a crisis it seems," said Mary Ann Vitone of Wheaton. "It always is a scenario that we have to act right now, there's no time; no time to plan things out. We can only react."

Jan Shaw of Wheaton said the district should have prioritized its spending so it didn't have to ask taxpayers for more money.

"The problem is you probably do actually need this money for building maintenance. And the reason is because you haven't been doing building maintenance as part of your operating budget," she said. "You haven't been doing it as part of the operation budget because you've been spending it on other things."

The bond issuance is expected to cost the owner of a $300,000 home about $12 more per year for about five years, district officials said.

In addition to approving the bond sale, the board also approved a resolution regarding its intent to restructure debt when appropriate in coming years.

The refinancing will push the debt from levy year 2023 to levy year 2025, reducing the annual debt payment from a peak of $29.1 million to $21 million.

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