District 73 to seek taxpayer support for $42 million building plan

Residents to be asked for $42 million for 10-year project

  • Hawthorn Elementary District 73 will ask voters for $42 million to pursue a master facilities plan designed to meet current and future needs.

      Hawthorn Elementary District 73 will ask voters for $42 million to pursue a master facilities plan designed to meet current and future needs. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Mobile classrooms at Hawthorn Elementary South in Vernon Hills illustrate space needs, according to the district.

      Mobile classrooms at Hawthorn Elementary South in Vernon Hills illustrate space needs, according to the district. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted1/17/2017 5:30 AM

After months of study and discussion, officials in Hawthorn Elementary District 73 have selected a 10-year building expansion and renovation plan, and will ask voters for $42 million in new tax revenue to make it happen.

That the Vernon Hills-based K-8 district would need voter assistance to address current and projected space needs and make other improvements to its six school buildings is not a surprise. But the amount needed was in flux as alternatives were considered.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Really, we can't do most of the work without passing a referendum," school board President Jeff Bard said Monday. "It (the amount sought) was going to be based on whether Option A or Option B was chosen."

District 73, like other entities, have until Jan. 26 to submit a certified copy of the referendum question to the Lake County clerk's office. The question will be on the April 4 ballot.

Last week, the board selected Option B, which comes with an estimated $54.8 million cost. The amount to be sought from voters will be lower because the district will use available funds for a new building to consolidate most kindergarten classes.

A voter education effort is being assembled for the proposed tax hike, which would cost the owner of a house valued at $350,000 about $310 extra each year.

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But that added amount will be temporary as property taxes from existing debt will drop significantly as bonds are paid off, according to the district.

"We have seven more years of our current bond issues," Superintendent Nick Brown said.

The proposed 18-room kindergarten addition onto the Vernon Hills Park District's Sullivan Center across the street from District 73's south campus is estimated to cost $11.8 million, but it is based on a concept and can change as specifics emerge.

Brown said the biggest and most expensive components of the educational facilities master plan are adding needed space as enrollment increases, with more residential projects having been approved or proposed.

"The plan covers work at all the buildings," he said.

Enrollment is accelerating, and by 2025 the district expects to add as many as 705 students to the current enrollment of 4,364. Mobile classrooms are used at Hawthorn Elementary South, and physical education classes are held in lunch rooms in some locations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Besides moving kindergarten classes, pre-K and early childhood classes would return to the district from the former Lincoln school in Mundelein.

The board also opted to revise Plan B to add science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas to each building, rather than one center each for the north and south campuses.

The long-range plan includes $3.1 million to buy nearly 12 acres near the south campus from the park district.

Bard said the master plan is designed to meet needs for 10 years.

The total sought reflects the district's desire to ask for one tax hike rather than multiple increases.

"I don't think anybody disputes the schools are really crowded and there will be more students with new development," he said.

@dhmickzawislak

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