Harper College officials are trying to gain community support for an estimated $180 million in campus upgrades over the next decade, possibly continuing a tax increase to pay for it.
Over the last two weeks, the Palatine-based community college has hosted a series of meetings with elected officials, business owners and residents to detail a 10-year facilities master plan, which proposes a mix of improvements to aging structures, additions and new construction.
Harper's district covers 23 towns; on Monday, college officials met with leaders and residents from Arlington Heights, Prospect Heights, Mount Prospect and Des Plaines.
The master plan, approved by the college's board of trustees earlier this year, includes $224.3 million in projects. Officials have since identified $180 million of those as "priority projects":
• A new $28.5 million, 43,000-square-foot innovation/university center that would serve as an entrepreneurship hub and center for regional economic development, and where students could complete bachelor's degrees in three years. Harper plans to partner with Northern Illinois University, DePaul University and Roosevelt University to offer a dozen degree programs on Harper's campus.
• Renovations totaling $39 million for Buildings I and J, among the older facilities on campus that haven't been upgraded since 1980. They house business and social sciences, early childhood, and career and technical programs.
• A $49.7 million expansion of health careers and manufacturing classrooms and labs with the addition of collaborative and study spaces.
• Infrastructure improvements worth $62.8 million, including air handling units, water mains, storm sewer mains and telecommunication lines.
To pay for the work, Harper officials on Monday touted what they called a "zero-tax-rate-increase" bond issue -- a borrowing plan that voters could be asked to consider as soon as November 2018.
Existing capital bond issues approved in a 2000 referendum are due to be paid off in 2020, at which time property taxes are scheduled to go down.
That could equate to a $23 savings for the owner of a $250,000 market value house. But with the approval of a new bond request, taxes would stay at the same level.
Officials are seeking community input on the proposal through a survey at harpercollege.edu/strongfuture.