District 64 board votes to borrow $26 million for building expansions
Over the continued objections of two trustees, the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 board voted Thursday to issue about $26 million in bonds that will fund building expansions and renovations associated with a planned move to all-day kindergarten.
The 5-2 vote makes the financing for the plan official. It follows years of public discussions and board debates, as well as a community survey and recent board approval of various elements of the proposal.
"Tonight is a historic evening," board President Denise Pearl said before the meeting at Roosevelt Elementary. "I am proud of the collaborative and thoughtful effort between the board and administration in being responsive to parent and community feedback."
Board members decided in August to pursue full-day kindergarten at all five elementary schools. They also chose to convert Jefferson School in Niles into a district headquarters as part of the project.
The elementary schools -- Roosevelt, Franklin, Carpenter, Field and Washington, all in Park Ridge -- offer only half-day kindergarten classes now.
More classrooms will be built and other facility improvements are expected.
"It's a facelift," board member Phyllis Lubinski said.
Construction could start in early 2022. Officials hope all-day kindergarten will be available starting next fall.
Half-day classes will continue to be offered for parents preferring that option.
District 64's property tax rate will increase to raise the cash needed to repay the loan. Owners of typical $350,000 houses will see the district's portion of their tax bills increase by about $125 the first year, officials have said.
As they have in the past, board members Tom Sotos and Gareth Kennedy voted against the plan Thursday night. Before the meeting, Sotos said he supports offering full-day kindergarten but opposes how the project is being financed, as well as how borrowing the $26 million now will affect the district's ability to borrow money for future construction projects. He's made similar statements in the past.
"I would have preferred our board take a step back and prepare one comprehensive budget that identifies all the needs of the district for the next 10 years," Sotos said.
Kennedy once again said he would've preferred voters decide the issue.
District 64 officials haven't decided if they'll charge families for all-day kindergarten.
Offering all-day classes will increase staffing costs by $1.2 million annually, documents indicate. One-time and annual technology and curriculum costs will be incurred, too, officials have said.
Some suburban districts charge an extra fee for enrolling in all-day kindergarten, while others don't.