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updated: 3/4/2014 7:41 AM

Dist. 203 could keep taxes for loan payment, facilities

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Naperville Unit District 203 school board members who are considering whether to keep or return to taxpayers about $3 million in property taxes heard more from administrators Monday about proposed uses for the funds.

One plan would be to keep the money and use it to help pay off early a $10 million loan the district took out in 2008, which would avoid annual interest payments of $400,000 a year, Chief Financial Officer Brad Cauffman said.

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But a second plan, if early repayment of the loan cannot be worked out, would be to keep the tax money and use it to fund capital improvements to schools as spelled out in a facilities master plan the district is developing.

The facilities plan, which Superintendent Dan Bridges said will set new standards for topics such as security at school entrances and classroom specifications, is expected to be before the board in May.

Cauffman and Bridges said the citizens' finance advisory committee supports the move to keep the $3 million in taxes -- as long as it goes toward paying down debt or making improvements to schools.

"I'm a big proponent of putting money back into the facilities because that just pays dividends moving forward," board member Terry Fielden said.

If the district votes to keep the tax money instead of refunding it, the owner of a $375,000 house would not be refunded about $95, Cauffman said.

The district has refunded this portion of its tax levy to property owners four out of the past five years. The tax has existed since voters approved the district's borrowing of $10 million in 2008 and $33 million in 2009.

The 2009 loan cannot be paid back early. But the district is investigating ways to pay off the 2008 loan ahead of schedule.

If early repayment cannot be worked out, the 2008 loan will cost the district a total of $17.29 million. That's why administrators are recommending the board keep the $3 million in taxes and use it to cover about one-third of the cost of repaying the 2008 loan early.

"That's the best use of those resources for our community," board President Jackie Romberg said.

The board is expected to vote on whether to keep or refund the taxes during its next meeting on March 17.

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