Dist. 220 explains tax-increase request again

  • Voters on April 2 will decide whether to give Barrington Area Unit District 220 permission to borrow $185 million for building projects. The plan, which would raise property taxes, calls for an 800-seat fine-arts center at Barrington High School along with a physical education wellness addition and a "21st-century" library renovation at that building.

      Voters on April 2 will decide whether to give Barrington Area Unit District 220 permission to borrow $185 million for building projects. The plan, which would raise property taxes, calls for an 800-seat fine-arts center at Barrington High School along with a physical education wellness addition and a "21st-century" library renovation at that building. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer, 2017

 
 
Posted3/7/2019 5:20 AM

Barrington Area Unit District 220 board members Wednesday night hosted a final information session for residents on a ballot measure seeking permission to raise property taxes for $185 million in building projects.

A mix of parents, students and others came to Barrington Middle School-Station Campus for third and last meeting regarding the borrowing plan. Tentative figures show the proposal, if approved in the April 2 election, would add about $100 to the annual property tax bill for an owner of a typical $500,000 median value home in District 220.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Superintendent Brian Harris told the audience the ballot question wording specifies the $185 million must be tied to projects for existing buildings.

"We cannot build a new school with these dollars," Harris said.

Officials say the construction work would address how District 220's schools should evolve over the next 20 years, including flexible spaces and better technology.

Rooted in a community process called Blueprint 220, which began in 2017, part of the initiative would include all schools' receiving basic building improvements and upgraded security. Bathroom repairs, new roofs and improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems would be among the projects.

Plans also call for an 800-seat fine-arts center at Barrington High School along with a physical education wellness addition and a "21st-century" library renovation at that building, along with eliminating mobile classrooms at both middle schools and Grove Avenue Elementary School in Barrington.

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Harris elaborated on the need for a new high school fine-arts auditorium.

"The high school auditorium right now is the original, 1948 vintage, same seats," Harris said. "Anybody been backstage at the high school auditorium? You been up in the catwalks? Been up in there? It looks like 1948, doesn't it? I was up there. I was up there two weeks ago when a play was going on, a musical. It just makes me nervous. I will tell you, flat out, it's not appropriate. We need to do better in that space for the program that we have going on at Barrington High School."

Other work would include sensory and therapy rooms and kitchen renovations at the elementary schools. The district's two middle schools in Barrington would be in line for classroom additions and cafeteria renovations.

Some in the crowd raised questions about whether too much money is being spent on high-level administrators and whether the district should have designed the ballot measure to seek money for a third middle school.

Officials said debt from the district's last round of building projects will be off the books in 2021. For an owner of a house with a $500,000 median value, the construction debt payments have been about $750 annually and are on schedule to vanish, but they would be replaced by the new round of borrowing if the $185 million request were approved.

Harris said work would take 3½ to four years to complete. If the request is rejected, officials said, District 220 could not return to the ballot until March 2020.

Answering an audience statement that there is a perception officials would find money if the proposal were rejected, school board President Brian Battle said: "If there's a way to magically find $185 million, I want to meet the magician."

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