District 59 plan to borrow $39 million rankles residents
Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 has proposed $42.8 million worth of building projects to fix leaky roofs, replace old heating and cooling systems, and lay fresh asphalt on parking lots over the course of at least the next three years.
But the primary plan to fund it -- mostly through loans repaid via a property tax increase -- was questioned Monday night by a group of taxpayers who've been critical of district administrators and the school board.
"You are taxing us to death while destroying our property values," said Mary Vicars, an Arlington Heights resident and frequent attendee of District 59 board meetings. "You have not been good stewards of our money, and now you want more."
She was one of nine speakers during a public hearing on a plan to issue up to $39 million in school fire prevention and safety bonds that would help fund capital projects at school buildings during the next three summers.
For the owner of a $250,000 home, the proposed bond issue would result in an estimated property tax increase of $35 in 2019, $39 in 2020, $115 from 2021 through 2028, and $46 in 2029.
The balance of the capital work -- some $4 million -- would be paid through district reserves, which will total $88 million next summer.
The proposed work next summer includes $8.1 million for roof replacements at Devonshire, Byrd and Grove schools and $2.7 million for heating and cooling system upgrades such as boilers and pumps at Byrd.
Another big-ticket item planned next year is $2.5 million to make secure entrance vestibules at Brentwood, Clearmont and Low schools, so that visitors would be buzzed into the school office before going into the rest of the school. The other 12 district schools have such vestibules.
Some residents questioned why there are so many projects proposed and whether the board planned appropriately.
Superintendent Art Fessler said the projects list was intended to be a catchall, and only more pressing work might be done.
Board President Janice Krinsky added that the timing of many of the same projects at multiple schools is due to past work being completed concurrently, when the district received soundproofing funds from the O'Hare International Airport modernization program.
The school board in November gave an early preference to do all of the capital projects in three years, using the mix of bonds and reserves.
Board members also considered an option to do $1 million more worth of work for a total of $43.8 million, spread it out over six years, do separate bonds issues of $18.9 million and $19.8 million, and take $5.1 million from reserves.
On Monday, officials introduced another option: complete the work in seven years while borrowing $20 million and using $22 million from reserves.
But officials say they're leaning toward the three-year plan to take advantage of low interest rates and because future construction costs are likely to escalate.
The board could vote on a final plan in January or February.