District 64 to borrow $26 million to fund construction needed for all-day kindergarten

A divided Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 board on Thursday voted to borrow nearly $26 million to fund building renovations that will pave the way for all-day kindergarten classes throughout the district.

District 64's property tax rate will increase to pay off the resulting debt over 14 years, officials said. The owners of a typical $350,000 house will see the district's portion of their tax bills increase by about $125 the first year, financial adviser Elizabeth Hennessy told the board during its meeting Thursday night at Carpenter Elementary.

A year ago, tax payments to the district from those typical homeowners dropped by about $125 because previous debt had been paid off, Hennessy said.

The board approved the financing plan with a 5-2 vote. Trustees Tom Sotos and Gareth Kennedy opposed the plan.

Kennedy insisted voters should be asked to approve the tax-rate increase. Kennedy had objected to the all-day kindergarten plan, too.

Sotos opposed the financing plan because of fears that facility improvements that could cost millions are waiting down the road. All the projects should be considered, Sotos said.

"I cannot do this piecemeal," he said.

Board member Phyllis Lubinski voted for the financing, saying "interest is low, (and) our debt is cheap."

The board decided last month to pursue full-day kindergarten at all five District 64 elementary schools and to convert Jefferson School in Niles into a district headquarters. The elementary schools - Carpenter, Field, Franklin, Roosevelt and Washington, all in Park Ridge - offer only half-day kindergarten classes now.

More classrooms need to be built at the schools to accommodate the change.

Officials hope all-day kindergarten will be available to families starting in the 2022-23 school year. Half-day classes will remain available, as required by the state.

Under the plan, District 64 will issue the bonds in December or January, get the money in February and start construction afterward, Hennessy said.

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