After removing one project from a long list, the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board on Thursday approved spending nearly $45 million in excess reserve funds on major capital projects.
The projects include a new swimming pool for Prospect High School, a turf football field at Elk Grove, security vestibules at all schools, new gyms and music wings at various schools, and more. The final list was the result of a Capital Projects Task Force -- convened nearly a year ago when the district realized it had an excess 55 percent of its operating budget in reserves -- and months of community and schoolwide meetings.
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"The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," said Superintendent David Schuler of the response since the task force announced its recommendations at the last board meeting. "Students, staff and parents have expressed excitement about the potential projects."
However, after negative feedback from several residents, one of the proposed projects -- a community help center -- was cut from the list by administrators on Thursday.
The project would have involved the district buying land from a neighboring church, building a warehouselike facility for students to earn community service hours, and for residents to visit and receive food and clothes.
Several residents said the project seemed to be outside of the district's scope and mission to educate students.
Instead, Schuler proposed a Service Learning Center to possibly be housed at the Forest View Administration Center as a centralized location to organize student community service activities.
After some discussion from board members and the community, the board unanimously approved the projects.
The $45 million in capital projects will be carried out over three years and does not include the regular $7 million to $8 million the board approves as part of its annual budget toward facility maintenance and upkeep.
Schuler said the board may consider giving a tax abatement to residents in 2016, but is not yet sure how much money it could be.
"I strongly support investing in schools, but a $45 million surplus seems like a lot to me. I feel like I should be getting some of that back," said Arlington Heights resident Bruce Parker.
Board Member Dan Petro also asked when Hersey and Rolling Meadows would receive swimming pools now that they will be the last two schools in the district without, but Schuler said he wasn't sure.
Due to land constraints, officials have said there is not physical space to build a pool at either of those locations without buying more property.
"I know this is give and take. I know resources are limited and I appreciate that," Petro said. "I don't think we're done. There's more work to be done here and we're going to have to figure out how to get it completed.