Glen Ellyn District 41 will ask voters for $24.2 million

Voters will decide whether to allow Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 to borrow $24.2 million to pay for an addition at Hadley Junior High and infrastructure projects in its four elementary schools.

The school board voted 6-0 Monday night to place the referendum question on the ballot April 4. The district must file the measure with DuPage County election officials no later than Jan. 17.

Hadley parents have appealed the school board in recent weeks to increase the funding request to expand the school's overcrowded cafeteria and overhaul spaces for its music program. But board members cautioned that widening the scope of work could derail the entire plan and jeopardize projects that did receive support on a survey issued to the district's households in November.

If voters reject the measure, the district's share of the property tax bill for the owner of a $373,200 home - the average in Glen Ellyn - is set to decrease by $248 because of the retirement of existing debt.

The tax bill for that homeowner would only decrease by roughly $126 if voters approved the borrowing plan, financial planners said last month.

The district would earmark about $9.2 million of the tax-backed loan to build a two-story, 11-classroom addition that would replace Hadley's portable classrooms.

The district has spent about $7 million in reserves and issued another $7 million in debt to build brick-and-mortar additions and remove portables at the four elementary schools.

The district also would allocate voter-approved money for roof repairs and bathroom renovations to improve accessibility for students with special needs in all five schools. Those items were listed in an audit of buildings the district must complete every decade.

Off the table is space for full-day kindergarten classrooms after that project received lukewarm support in the survey of about 1,500 residents and district employees.

"For me, it is a case of wants and needs," board member Drew Ellis said. "There are some specific needs, and those needs are the portables in my eyes and the health-safety issues that were identified by the 10-year audit, which we are required to comply with by the state of Illinois."

Absent from the vote Monday was Willie DiFabio, who abruptly resigned from the seven-member board, President Erica Nelson said in a prepared statement at the start of the meeting. His resignation cited conflict-of-interest concerns about his work as a substitute teacher in the district.

Superintendent Paul Gordon said those concerns were raised "internally" in the district over the holidays.

The district consulted its attorney, who advised that, under board policy and state law, DiFabio cannot substitute teach and also be a board member, Nelson said.

"Neither the board nor Mr. DiFabio was aware of any legal or practical limitations on such dual service," she said.

DiFabio also plans to withdraw from the race for four board seats up for election in April to continue substitute teaching, a position he's held since 2009. DiFabio, who was appointed to a one-year seat on the board in June, was the only incumbent in the crowded contest. Nine other candidates have filed to run.

Before his appointment, DiFabio served on the board from 1997 until 2005.

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