District 128 again looking at new pool, gym

 
 
Updated 2/5/2016 10:32 AM
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  • Superintendent Prentiss Lea, left, talks to Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 board members about the district's finances Monday night. Board members Pat Groody and Jim Batson sit to his left.

      Superintendent Prentiss Lea, left, talks to Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 board members about the district's finances Monday night. Board members Pat Groody and Jim Batson sit to his left. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

Editor's note: The story has been changed to show that Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 officials had $122 million in savings as of Jan. 31. That included $34 million in recently received tax revenue.

First publicly discussed about two years ago, plans to build a new swimming pool at Libertyville High School and a second gymnasium at Vernon Hills High are back on the table.

The current, aging pool at Libertyville High could be reconfigured, too, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea said during a discussion Monday night. He didn't elaborate.

The growing need for those athletic facilities must be weighed against the financial uncertainty that's been created by lawmakers in Springfield, Lea said.

Although the district long has been on solid budgetary footing, proposals being floated in the state Capitol -- including a possible property-tax freeze that would limit the district's future revenue -- have administrators concerned. A proposed shift of pension costs and possible changes to the state's school funding formula are two other fiscal uncertainties for Lea, his administrative staff and the board.

Making plans for costly capital projects at the two schools as those other issues swirl around is like trying to "align moons," Lea said during Monday's discussion, which came during a committee-of-the-whole meeting at the district's main office in Vernon Hills.

The pool and gym projects first surfaced in 2014. At a board meeting that August, board President Pat Groody said they were in an "exploratory" phase.

Cost estimates for the projects weren't given Monday night.

Lea said he believes the district can afford the pool and gym projects without raising taxes.

That's particularly important, Lea said, because the District 128 board has reduced the amount of tax revenue it's been scheduled to collect from residents four times since 2011. To ask voters to pay more in taxes after abating the tax haul by $19 million over the last five years would be "disingenuous," Lea said.

As of Jan. 31, had $122 million in savings, including $34 million in recently received tax revenue. Officials have said they've wanted to spend some of that money on campus improvements.

On Monday, Lea said building a new pool at Libertyville is the most important of the proposed projects. Repurposing the current pool can be done down the road, he said.

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