Millions for pool, gym included in proposed District 128 budget
Money for a new swimming pool at Libertyville High School and a second gym at Vernon Hills High is included in District 128's tentatively approved $98.3 million budget, but the projects' fates aren't clear because of other financial concerns.
Officials earmarked $8 million for the pool and gym in the spending plan for the 2017 fiscal year, which began July 1. That's about one-third of the estimated costs of the two projects, which are expected to be between $23 million and $25 million and take three years to complete.
The budget won't be finalized until an Aug. 22 vote. Between now and then, officials will wrestle with whether to keep either of the construction projects in the plan.
The hesitation is prompted by concerns about how annual deficits are hurting Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128's long-term fiscal welfare.
During a finance committee meeting Monday, board member Alex Delli Paoli Jr. predicted the district's $81 million reserves could be gone within six or seven years if officials don't slash spending and raise revenue. No one disputed his figures.
After Delli Paoli's presentation, board members and administrators debated whether the district should postpone or kill the gym and pool projects and instead spend the money on educational needs.
Some board members said a new pool should be a priority. Others suggested athletic facilities need to take a back seat to academic needs.
That was Superintendent Prentiss Lea's view, too.
"If those are the choices and we're going to have to make those deeper cuts, then I don't feel we have a choice," Lea said.
The projects -- and the district's fiscal outlook -- will be discussed during an Aug. 8 finance committee meeting.
The proposed $98.3 million budget is about 8 percent greater than the 2016 fiscal year's $90.9 million spending plan.
In addition to money for the construction projects, the proposed budget includes $6.2 million to finish repaying the loans that funded the construction of Vernon Hills High in the late 1990s and additions at Libertyville High made at that time.
The plan predicts the district will collect about $81.7 million in taxes, fees and other revenue. That's down nearly $1 million from the 2016 fiscal year.
Because those construction loans will be paid off this year, the district no longer needs to collect property-tax revenue for them, said Yasmine Dada, the district's assistant superintendent for business.
The difference between anticipated expenses and revenue in the budget is about $16.6 million. That gap will be covered with cash from district savings.
District 128 spokeswoman Mary Todoric said several factors contributed to that gap, including the $8 million earmarked for construction and a $4 million tax abatement scheduled for this year.