What's next for Barrington District 220 after voters reject building project borrowing?

  • Barrington High School's 1940s-era auditorium would have been replaced with a 800-seat fine arts theater had voters backed a $185 million referendum for building projects Tuesday.

      Barrington High School's 1940s-era auditorium would have been replaced with a 800-seat fine arts theater had voters backed a $185 million referendum for building projects Tuesday. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer, 2017

  • Leah Collister-Lazzari, school board member-elect at Barrington Area Unit District 220, will be among the officials to decide what to do after voters rejected a referendum to borrow $185 million for building projects.

    Leah Collister-Lazzari, school board member-elect at Barrington Area Unit District 220, will be among the officials to decide what to do after voters rejected a referendum to borrow $185 million for building projects.

 
 

Barrington Area Unit District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris says school board members will decide how to proceed after voters rejected a request to borrow $185 million for building projects.

Unofficial totals from Cook, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties show voters downed the ballot measure by 4,077 votes to 3,909 on Tuesday. Cook County voters themselves barely supported the measure, with 1,696 in favor and 1,691 against the request that would have added about $100 to the annual property tax bill for an owner of a $500,000 median value home.

Harris said Wednesday the proposed upgrades for the schools are significant and costly enough that the district will need voter approval to finance them, but the soonest a ballot request can return is March 2020.

Rooted in a community process called Blueprint 220, which began in 2017, the plan called for all 12 of the district's schools to receive basic building improvements and upgraded security. Bathroom repairs, new roofs and improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems were among the proposed projects.

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

"I think the new board is going to have to figure out what to keep in and what to take out," Harris said.

Officials said debt from the district's last round of building projects will be off the books in 2021.

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For the owner of a $500,000 house, the construction debt payments of about $750 annually are scheduled to vanish, but they would have been replaced by the new round of borrowing if the $185 million request had been approved.

Board members Angela Wilcox and Gavin Newman preferred going to the voters with a request to borrow $160 million, which was expected to keep taxes steady but fund fewer projects.

Leah Collister-Lazzari, who was elected to the District 220 board Tuesday, was part of a referendum advisory committee that also recommended the $160 million option.

She said the district will need community feedback before board members decide how to proceed after the ballot-box defeat. She and fellow newcomer Barry Altshuler will be sworn in with Wilcox for 4-year terms on April 30.

"We'll have a challenge right away," Collister-Lazzari said.

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