District 95 candidates discuss funding for building improvements
How to pay for expenses associated with aging buildings is among the issues the next Lake Zurich Unit District 95 school board will face in the years ahead.
Six candidates are seeking four 4-year terms on the board in the April 4 election. Incumbents Scott McConnell, Eileen Maloney, Lisa Warren and Kathy Brown are competing with political newcomers Vasili Russis and Andrea Trudeau.
As part of a strategic planning initiative called Forward 95, officials have outlined potential projects at all of the district's buildings. Together, they would cost about $86.7 million to complete.
That cost -- calculated in today's dollars and not accounting for inflation -- would include life safety upgrades, maintenance, capital improvements and air conditioning, along with contingencies for architecture and engineering.
Funding options include continuing with a standard $3.3 million set aside for projects in the annual budget or reissuing debt, without a property tax hike, to gain an extra $4.4 million every four years. Officials said a referendum would be necessary before the district could reissue debt.
The six board candidates addressed the facility needs and expenses in a Daily Herald editorial board endorsement interview.
Brown, 52, of Hawthorn Woods, has been a board member since 2005. The attorney-turned-teacher said it would be worth asking voters at some point to decide.
"I think the most important thing is to come to the community with options," Brown said.
Trudeau, 40, a Kildeer resident who is a library information specialist at Alan B. Shepard Middle School in Deerfield, said she understands the need for flexible, innovative learning spaces and technology in classrooms. A referendum to issue more debt without a tax hike would be appropriate, she said.
Russis, a 50-year-old lawyer and a certified public accountant from Hawthorn Woods, said a referendum should be the last resort, after all financing options have been vetted.
"I think you've really got to sell out to the community what the options are, so they can understand that," Russis said.
Maloney, a 52-year-old attorney from Lake Zurich, said facility issues are "near and dear to my heart" and why she sought election in 2013. She said while major gains have been made in building improvements, more can be done if voters approve a referendum.
"We are in a place where we can make significant improvements without raising taxes," Maloney said. "We can do an awful lot of good things."
Warren, 51, a homemaker and volunteer, and McConnell, 44, both from Kildeer and each appointed to the school board in 2012, also support the idea of letting voters decide how much money the district ultimately has for building projects.
"We need to take what we have and preserve it, but we also have to make sure that it's better and that it's going to meet the needs for our students for the next generation or so," said McConnell, a managing technology director of Allstate Investments.
Early voting for the April 4 election has started for the District 95 board and other races and runs through April 3.