District 220 will try to narrow down referendum question Thursday

Barrington Area Unit District 220 board members will try again Thursday to reach consensus on a March 17 referendum question after failing to do so Tuesday.

"Were we too ambitious to think we could get to this point?" Board President Penny Kazmier asked. "I don't know."

There was a certain level of agreement on $145.7 million of proposed building improvements Tuesday but greater uncertainty on the possibility of the timing of an additional $14.2 million for a new 800-seat fine arts center at Barrington High School. That item being added would put a referendum near $160 million that would result in a nearly neutral impact on tax bills when taken into account with existing debt that will be paid off in 2021.

In fact, the owner of a $500,000 median value home in the district would pay approximately $45.63 less each year if a $160 million referendum were approved after existing debt is retired.

But even approaching this amount required board members to narrow the list of intended projects from the $185 million referendum voters rejected last April.

The board set a self-imposed deadline to resolve its consideration of a March referendum by the start of the school year next week. The district's improvement plans for its 12 schools have been rooted in a community process called Blueprint 220 that started in 2017. Among its basics have been proposed bathroom repairs, new roofs and improved heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

More significant changes the long-term plan proposed include the fine arts center to replace an aging auditorium, a physical education wellness addition and a library renovation at Barrington High School, as well as sensory and therapy rooms and kitchen renovations at the elementary schools.

Final results from last April's referendum showed 4,077 voters rejected that tax-hike request while 3,909 supported it.

  Barrington Area Unit District 220 Board President Penny Kazmier, left, and Superintendent Brian Harris during a board of education discussion of a proposed March 2020 referendum earlier this summer. Bob SunsnJara/, July 2019
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