Dist. 25 board authorizes first set of bonds for construction

The Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 board has authorized the sale of the first set of bonds to pay for full-day kindergarten and other school construction.

The board voted 5-1 Tuesday night to borrow as much as $62 million in the first of two expected bond sales, which were authorized by voters in a $75 million request on the June 28 primary ballot.

Under a resolution establishing parameters for the upcoming Aug. 30 competitive sale, the district would make maximum principal payments of just under $6 million a year over 20 years, at an interest rate of no more than 6%.

The resolution allows board President Anisha Jogee, Assistant Superintendent of Business Stacey Mallek and financial adviser Raymond James to proceed with the sale and award the deal to a winning bidder as long as it fits those parameters.

The remaining money would be borrowed as part of a separate bond issue in the spring.

It comes as Moody's Investors Service assigned a Aaa rating to District 25 a week ago, along with a stable outlook.

Board Vice President Brian Cerniglia said he was "pretty torn" about the full-day kindergarten issue, but ultimately, the voters spoke - by a 50-vote margin. That led to his vote to authorize the bond sale.

"These are economic times that are not the best to be borrowing money you don't have in. We have several thousand voters that were opposed to us spending this amount of money," Cerniglia said. "We've had many conversations about the capital expenditure needs coupled with the desire to consider full-day kindergarten.

"Personally, my kids went through a successful career at District 25 with halftime kindergarten, so as a parent and a taxpayer I think part-time kindergarten is pretty sufficient. Ultimately as I said here, I don't believe the seven of us should be making a significant financial decision on our own, so we put it out to a vote."

Board member Rich Olejniczak was the lone "no" vote, questioning whether the district's five-year capital projects plan needed to be paid through bonds along with the kindergarten classroom expansions.

Officials have estimated the 25 new kindergarten classrooms could cost $32.2 million to $42.6 million, while the other facilities renovations districtwide would cost $32.9 million.

"One of my strong questions on this was the capital portion of this, and I still think that's something that we should find a way to fund rather than going out ... for something that we're going to be paying back for 20 years," Olejniczak said.

The bond sales are expected to cost the owner of a home valued at $400,000 an extra $293 in property taxes a year.

As part of the massive building program and planning process, the board Tuesday also agreed to extend and update master agreements District 25 has had with construction management firm Nicholas and Associates, architect STR Partners and engineer Erikkson Engineering since 2015.

Construction could begin by next spring, with kindergarten classrooms at six schools ready to open two years from now.

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