Kaneland school board nixes plan to put referendum on Nov. 8 ballot

The Kaneland Unit District 302 school board suspended its discussions regarding authorizing the administration to prepare for a referendum of $67.9 million for individual facility projects.

Board members Aaron Lawler and Jennifer Simmons missed the Aug. 8 meeting in which EOSullivan shared survey results from its community engagement process. The five present board members voted 5-0 to table the recommendation.

"One of the most important things a school board does is deciding whether or not we go to referendum," board President Teresa Witt said. "If we don't make that decision tonight, we can't go to referendum in November because our next meeting is after the date [Aug. 22] to file."

The next Kaneland school board meeting is set for Aug. 29, pushing back the next opportunity for a referendum question to be put on a ballot to April 2023.

EOSullivan's recommendation would make its biggest impact with improved athletic facilities ($16 million), the Fox Valley Career Center ($15.3 million), infrastructure and mechanicals ($11.8 million) and modern learning environments ($11.3 million).

"If we're going to spend tens of millions of dollars, I tend to prefer to have everybody vote on it," board member Ryan Kerry said. "I would like to hear everyone's opinion and it gives me more time to mull over my thoughts on this. I'd still like to go with the field house, but you're [EoSullivan] telling me it's not a good idea."

With an estimated cost of $48.2 million, the field house was excluded from EOSullivan's recommendations primarily because of cost and because it also would require the maintenance and transportation facilities to be relocated.

The field house remains a coveted item for many who participated in the community engagement process. It was ranked the fourth-highest priority. It finished ahead of student resources and supports and was behind only infrastructure and mechanicals, modern learning environments and improved athletic facilities.

All but the field house are included within EOSullivan's proposed option for going to a referendum. The option also found room for a new high school entrance and the IgKnight Personalized Academy, the two projects that received the least amount of support among the 10 potential upgrades in the community survey.

Overall, support from the community in getting their voices heard was positive, with more than 650 phone responses along with an additional 163 via the committee meeting, public engagement sessions and online feedback.

"Of a community of this size, we generally look for 300 to 350 responses as a pretty good number," said Ed Sullivan of EOSullivan. "We received 653, which is absolutely outstanding data. And the data we received is even better from the standpoint that people who identify themselves as conservative filled this out and were very supportive of the things that take place."

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