District 220 to put $147 million spending plan on March 2020 ballot

  • Barrington Area Unit District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris, center, clarifies a point during the first of the board of education's two discussions this week on a proposed March 17 referendum question. From left are board members Sandra Bradford, President Penny Kazmier, Angela Wilcox and Gavin Newman.

      Barrington Area Unit District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris, center, clarifies a point during the first of the board of education's two discussions this week on a proposed March 17 referendum question. From left are board members Sandra Bradford, President Penny Kazmier, Angela Wilcox and Gavin Newman. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/16/2019 5:26 PM

Barrington Area Unit District 220 board members have approved putting a $147 million referendum question for facility improvements on the March 17 ballot by a 6-0 vote.

Only Board Member Gavin Newman was absent Thursday when his colleagues reached the decision on what to include among the proposed projects at their second meeting of the week on the topic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Having seen a $185 million referendum rejected by a 4,077-to-3,909 vote last April, board members had agonized for hours Tuesday about what to include and what to hold back from a March referendum with a narrowed focus when value was seen in all the projects proposed last time.

One of the biggest dilemmas was whether to include a $14.2 million, 800-seat fine arts center to replace the aging auditorium at Barrington High School. Board members ultimately decided Thursday to leave it out of the plan, but instead to include $300,000 to complete architectural plans for it.

Superintendent Brian Harris said such plans could help persuade a wider segment of the community of the need for such a center at some later time.

"I think there's too much unknown about what that is and what it isn't," Harris said of the fine arts center.

At Tuesday's meeting, a current student, recent graduate and mother of a recent graduate had made a pitch for the inclusion of the center due to what they saw as the inadequacy of the current auditorium as both a performing arts venue and community meeting space.

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Board member Barry Altshuler joked that the auditorium was probably one of the oldest pieces of real estate in the school district.

"It's begging for an update," Altschuler said. "It's woefully inadequate for a district of our high quality and expectations."

Because of existing debt the district expects to pay off in 2021, approval of the new referendum would cause the owner of a $500,000 home to still see a net decrease of about $75 a year compared with the 2019 tax bill through 2041. But without the referendum, the same homeowner would see a reduction of about $468 on his or her annual bill due to the retiring debt. The new proposal is 20% smaller than the one rejected last April.

Though months remain before a March 2020 referendum question needs to be filed with the Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry county clerks, it was important to the District 220 board to draft the question before school resumes next week, Harris said.

"The board really wanted to start the year with this being the dialogue," he added.

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