Benjamin District 25 moves ahead with April referendum
Benjamin Elementary District 25 would renovate obsolete science labs, replace aging technology and make other building repairs if voters approve a $4.9 million spending plan this spring.
The school board unanimously decided Monday to put the question on the ballot April 4. The request comes more than a year after officials began studying the proposal that would restructure how the district pays back its debt.
The district already plans to borrow about $2 million next month to pay for construction projects this summer. If voters approved, the district would issue another $4.9 million in tax-backed bonds for a second phase of work in its two schools that serve students in West Chicago, Carol Stream and Winfield.
Principal and interest payments on the district's existing debt are now capped at $582,672 a year.
The ballot question would seek voter permission to raise that limit to $997,500 a year so the district could pay off the $6.9 million in loans sooner -- in eight years.
If the measure fails, the owner of a house valued at $250,000 would see the district's share of their tax bills drop by about $220 because existing debt is coming off the district's books.
Those same homeowners would only see their bills decrease an estimated $73 over the prior year if voters approve the tax proposal.
Some District 25 taxpayers also could be asked in April to allow West Chicago Community High School District 94 to borrow millions of dollars for a large-scale renovation of its 90-year-old main building and classroom additions -- the last of which was constructed in 2000.
The District 94 school board is considering whether to pursue a referendum at a meeting this month. The high school will host a second public forum and Q-and-A on the proposed projects from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
District 94 officials originally indicated at least a year ago and then again a couple months ago that they were not considering a ballot question, District 25 Superintendent Phil Ehrhardt said.
"We try very hard throughout this process to check with all the different agencies," he said.
A group of parents that has gauged input on the plan is expected to launch a formal campaign in support of the district's request.
Regardless of the outcome in April, the district will spend the $2 million to replace lights with LED fixtures, update technology infrastructure and improve security systems in the two schools and administration center.
The $4.9 million borrowing plan that hinges on voter support would include the following projects, among others:
• Renovations of Benjamin's science labs at an estimated cost of $951,000. The district would add safety features such as fume hoods and eye-washing stations.
• Replacing or repairing roofs on the two schools at an estimated cost of about $1.3 million.
• Replacing or repairing windows at an estimated cost of about $366,800.
• Renovating the cafeteria at Evergreen at an estimated cost of $278,400 to also accommodate large group instruction and community groups.