Benjamin District 25 seeks money for building repairs, upgrades

 
 
Updated 3/30/2017 4:58 PM

Benjamin Elementary District 25 voters on Tuesday will decide whether to give the district permission to borrow $4.9 million to pursue a list of capital projects, including upgrading science labs and replacing aging technology.

The district already plans to borrow roughly $2 million to pay for construction projects this summer. If voters approve the ballot question, 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.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We've stated our case," Superintendent Phil Ehrhardt said Thursday. "We're hopeful the residents will see the need."

Ehrhardt said the district has a unique opportunity to address life-safety, security, educational and building needs. That's because the district is paying off some debt and bond market interest rates are "very good" right now.

So officials developed a plan where the district's tax rate will drop even if voters let it borrow money to pay for a list of projects.

Ehrhardt said the goal is to provide a productive learning environment for students.

"But at the same time, we're meeting the needs of our residents and taxpayers," he said.

Right now, principal and interest payments on the district's existing debt are capped at $582,672 a year.

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The ballot question seeks permission to raise that limit to $997,500 a year so the district could pay off the $6.9 million in loans in eight years.

If the measure fails, owners of homes valued at $250,000 would see their tax bills drop about $220 because existing debt is coming off the district's books.

Those same homeowners would see their bills decrease an estimated $73 if voters approve the tax proposal.

If voters reject the measure, Ehrhardt said the district will continue to have facility needs -- and the cost to address those needs will rise.

"If it doesn't pass now, it's going to be even more expensive in the future," he said.

The $4.9 million would fund projects at Evergreen Elementary and Benjamin Middle schools.

The work would include upgrading Benjamin's science labs, replacing student tablets, replacing or repairing roofs on the two schools, replacing or repairing windows, and renovating a gym at Evergreen into a multipurpose room.

Ehrhardt said officials made sure the list of projects would address the district's needs -- not its wants.

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