The Board of Education agreed to issue $6 million in Working Cash Bonds to pay for three construction projects. Superintendent Patrick Twomey said the bond issue will not alter the district's tax rate.
“The reason for that is we have a major Life Safety Bond falling off the tax rolls. So we’ll just dovetail this Working Cash Bond in right behind it (and) the rate will remain steady,” Dr. Twomey said.
The board’s action is what’s known as a “back door referendum,” which means residents could still petition to put the bond issue on the ballot. Requirements regarding that process:
- The petitions must contain the signatures of at least 10% of the registered voters in the district, or 1,227 signatures.
- The petitions must be submitted within 30 days of publication of a legal notice about the bond issue. The notice was originally published in the McDonough County Voice on Friday, November 24, 2017, but poor print quality made it quite difficult to read. The notice was published again the following day but with the same result. A legible notice appeared in the Tuesday, November 28, 2017 edition of the Voice.
- If the petitions are filed with the district on or before December 18, 2017, the referendum would appear on the March 20, 2018 ballot.
- If the petitions are filed with the district after December 18, 2017, and before the 30 day period ends, the referendum would appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot.
- The Circuit Court could declare an emergency referendum be held prior to either of those election dates.
Twomey said the district chose to issue bonds rather than use revenue generated by the local one-cent sales tax because of promises made while campaigning for voter approval of the sales tax.
“We really made a commitment to use the one-cent sales tax to build a new middle school. We intend to keep that promise,” Twomey said.
The proposed projects:
- Add six classrooms and an elevator and expand the cafeteria at Edison School for an estimated cost of $3.1 million. This will allow the district to get rid of the four modular classrooms currently located behind the school. “I call them trailers and they’re really not a good long-term solution for classrooms,” Twomey said. He said the addition will be a wind-resistant structure, making it a safer space during severe storms such as tornadoes (the new multi-purpose room at Lincoln School will also be a wind-resistant structure).
- Build an honors lab and five science labs for high school students for an estimated cost of $2.2 million. This will be done after a new middle school is built and the current junior-senior high school houses only high school students. “That will include all new science tables, all new water hook-ups, all new gas hook-ups, all those things that go into a science room, as well as all the technology that currently exists in science rooms,” said Twomey.
- Install an all-purpose surface at the high school football stadium for an estimated cost of $800,000. This will allow the field to also be used for soccer, softball, marching band practices, physical education classes, and more. “This would have an opportunity of really becoming the most used space in the district,” Twomey said.
The school board voted 5-1 to issue the bonds. Matt Duncan voted against the plan and Jim LaPrad was absent from the meeting.
Duncan said, “I’m not against improving the facilities and some of the expansions. My issue is more in the timeline. It seemed like we kind of moved quickly into this. We’ve been discussing a lot of these projects but haven’t really voted to approve any of them.”