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updated: 9/12/2017 4:06 PM

District 59 bond question officially put on March ballot

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Voters will decide whether Elk Grove Township District 59 can borrow up to $20 million.

The school board voted unanimously Monday against halting plans to issue bonds, after the Cook County clerk's office last week determined the question will appear on the March election ballot. The actions turn the district's attention toward trimming its budget while launching an educational campaign for how the bonds would be used.

Administrators asked for the bond issue to help pay for a new $16 million administration building and construction projects at several schools, as well as to help balance future budgets. Though the district has a large reserve fund, it will be deficit spending heavily the next couple of years to pay for the construction projects and additional employees.

Residents upset about the potential tax increase submitted enough petitions to force a voter referendum on the bonds, and the clerk's office officially put the question on the ballot during a hearing last Thursday.

Superintendent Art Fessler said the district is working on ways to cut future spending plans through employee attrition and reducing operating costs. The district expects to have clearer plans within the next four to six weeks, he said.

The district has yet to receive exact figures for how much state aid it would receive under a new school funding formula approved in late August.

Meanwhile, the district will begin releasing information in the coming months about ways the bond funds would be spent and exactly how much would be borrowed. Though the ballot question will ask for bonds up to $20 million, the school board has previously reached consensus to seek $15 million. The number could be lower, Fessler said.

A $15 million bond issue would cost the average resident with a $250,000 home about $15 more in property taxes annually until 2024.

If the district doesn't sell bonds, officials will have to make budget cuts sooner to stay in compliance with a self-imposed policy requiring at least 60 percent of annual operating costs be held in reserve. The district has pledged to stop deficit spending by the budget year beginning in September 2020.

The school district includes Elk Grove Village, Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect and Des Plaines.

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