District 205 voters to decide on $168.5 million school construction plan

Elmhurst Unit District 205 will ask voters this fall for a property tax increase to pay for $168.5 million in construction projects throughout the district, including the replacement of two aging elementary schools.

School board members voted unanimously Monday night to put a referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot. It was their final opportunity to consider the resolution.

According to the ballot question, voters will be asked if District 205 should replace Lincoln and Field elementary schools and upgrade other buildings to improve security, provide STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) spaces and add classrooms for all-day kindergarten, among other things.

The question is the result of a three-year community engagement process, development of a master facilities plan and a recent phone survey that showed 55 percent support for consideration of a referendum.

The district will seek permission from voters to borrow $168.5 million for the construction projects. If the ballot measure is approved, it would cost an additional $149 a year in property taxes for the owner of a $500,000 home.

"I believe asking voters is in the best interest of the community for the long-term growth of District 205," board member Shannon Ebner said about placing the referendum on the ballot. "I believe community members should have the opportunity to decide the next steps for the vision."

Officials say District 205 needs to borrow money so it would have enough funding to address safety and security needs and enhance a list of schools. The building projects also would allow the district to offer all-day kindergarten at each of its elementary schools.

Board members said they believe in this plan, despite some of them questioning it in the past, and are ready to see if the community supports it as well.

"I think it's the community's vote that is going to be momentous," board member John McDonough said. "This is a community decision about what the education facilities will be and the finances will look like for the next couple decades."

Monday night's decision about the referendum was expected to happen last week. But an Aug. 14 discussion about the referendum was postponed after the school board learned Superintendent David Moyer was seeking another job as a superintendent in Ohio.

Moyer withdrew from the preliminary search for the position in Ohio. Then, during meetings on Thursday and Friday, board President Kara Caforio said he convinced members of his commitment to the district.

With their leader secured and the building plan properly vetted, board members said it's time to move forward.

"The more you understand it, the more sense it makes," board member James Collins said about the facilities plan. "I believe it will raise the level of education in District 205. It's time to put it in front of voters."

  Members of the Elmhurst Unit District 205 school board prepare for a unanimous vote to place a referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot that could allow the district to borrow $168.5 million for school construction and renovations. Marie Wilson/
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