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New Trier Township Highschool District Bond Measure (February 2010)

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A New Trier Township Highschool District Bond Measure was on the February 2 ballot for voters in the New Trier Township High School District in Cook County.

This measure asked voters for their permission for the district to enter into $174 million of bonded indebtedness in order to alter, repair, equip and replace buildings on the Winnetka Campus.[1] The bond referendum, according to the Illinois State Board of Education, is the fifth most expensive referendum ever considered in Illinois history by the voters of an individual school district. The record was set in 2006 when voters in the Oswego School District in the West Chicago suburbs approved a $450 million dollar bond issue to rebuild numerous facilities.[2]

This measure was defeated

  • YES 8,068 (37.04%)
  • NO 13,713 (62.96%)Defeatedd[3]

Need for project

Last referendum in 1953

The referendum for the Winnetka Township campus of the high school district was the first referendum since 1953 as the high school district has a campus in nearby Northfield, Illinois. School District administrators claimed the need for the project because they felt that recent projects that renovated the Winnetka campus were what they call a "patchwork approach" towards improving the high school[4].

Age of Winnetka campus buildings

Administrators for New Trier Township High School District stated that a majority of their buildings that they sought to replace upon voter approval were 60 to 100 years old in age. The majority of the classrooms built on the Winnetka campus were constructed in 1934 and 1957 in which they are 71 classrooms. The project if it had been approved would have built 80 modern classrooms[5]. The cafeteria on the Winnetka campus was built in 1912[5]. Project plans called for the cafeteria to be demolished and be built with a new cafeteria that would according to administrators would have increased working room for staff and have more seating for students, faculty, and staff. Administrators had said in its fact sheets that the current cafeteria had outgrown its use[5].

The gymnasium was also called for being demolished if it had been approved by the voters and replaced with a brand new gym. New Trier administrators stated that the gym built in 1928 would need new windows and roofing. Administrators felt that the current facility would increase injury risk for the volleyball, wrestling, and basketball teams that compete in the gymnasium on the Winnetka campus[5].

The Winnetka campus Tech Arts building was built in 1931 was also slated for demolition if the project had been approved. School administrators claimed that the building was in constant need of maintenance and currently had single pane windows and a steam heating system[5].

Project outcomes


New Trier HSD Referendum Video

According to New Trier administrators, results of the project valued at $174 million claim to include:

  • A net gain of nine academic classrooms, from 71 to 80. Of those 80 classrooms, about seventy-five percent will be new or renovated (41 new and 18 renovated).
  • 3 new labs for science instruction.
  • All new classrooms for music, performing, visual and tech arts classes.
  • New instruction spaces for 2/3rd's of the physical education curriculum.
  • New elevators and ramps as New Trier Administrators claim that thirty percent of their facilities are not compliant with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • Technology upgrades in all classrooms including enhanced internet and audio/video connections.
  • New Trier administrators also claim that the school district would use a "green" approach for sustainability purposes.
  • Installation of new heating, cooling, and fire suppression systems[6].

Project cost

Taxpayer Impact

The $174 million bond referendum would have cost homeowners, according to New Trier administrators, around $248 to $295 yearly on a property tax bill totaling $10,000. New Trier Administrators did not expect a ballot measure in the future over funding teacher salaries and fringe benefit packages until 2017 to 2020[5].

New Trier Administrators claimed that if a referendum was held in 2011 that the taxpayer impact would be $85 higher than holding a referendum in 2010[5]. Also, administrators stated that since the referendum failed that $35 million will have to be spent over the next 20 years to maintain and repair the buildings in its current form. New Trier Township High School District felt that this expense would have been avoided if the referendum passed[5].

Funding

Part of the project would have been funded through the Build America Bonds program which was made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. New Trier administrators stated that the Build America Bonds were only available until the end of 2010[4].

Opposition

Excessive spending

New Trier Choices had been very critical over the New Trier Township High School District for excessive spending in the proposed bond referendum[7]. Though they did agree with the fact that the buildings needed to be updated in compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and replacing the cafeteria, they felt that a heated underground parking structure for staff and double story music rooms were unnecessary for the project[7]. New Trier Choices felt that spending money on a underground parking structure could restrict the New Trier Township High School District from meeting future educational needs that they felt could go to improved academic programming[7].

Hidden property tax increases

New Trier Choices, a registered group opposed to the bond referendum had argued that there would have been hidden property tax increases if the bond issue had been approved. The hidden property tax increases that New Trier Choices claimed would come from $100 million in interest expense that would have been added on to the $174 million dollars the New Trier District is asking for[7]. Also, with how assessment caps in Cook County will be phased out along with other Illinois counties would attribute to a hidden increase according to New Trier Choices[8].

The assessment caps were part of a program approved by the Illinois General Assembly in 1990's to curb property tax increases with soaring home values[8]. The Chicago Tribune reported that some of the Chicago North Shore suburbs where the New Trier District is located were projected to have the sharpest increases in property taxes in 2010 with the phase out in assessment caps[8].

New Trier Choices also pointed out to hidden property tax increases from a statement New Trier Associate Superintendent Donald Goers said in the January 7, 2010 edition of the Pioneer Press that property taxes could go up an additional ten percent every three years in addition to the $248 to $295 a year increase[9]. Also, the district had been accused by New Trier Choices for not being honest to district voters if there could be another referendum in the near future to fund operations under the Illinois Property Tax Cap Act of 2006[9].

Unfunded pension liabilities

Another reason to the New Trier Choices opposition to the bond referendum was the concern of unfunded pension liabilities in the school districts and the surrounding local governments. Due to investment losses in the stock market with the continuing recession and higher payments to pensions mandated by the State of Illinois has been a cause for concern on the part of New Trier Choices on unfunded pension liabilities[10].

The Northwest Municipal Conference, a group that oversees changes in local government pension liabilities finds that each local government unit in Illinois could face a $900,000 increase in 2010 to their pension liabilities. Illinois law requires that local government units must fully fund their pension by 2033. Due to the sharp economic downturn, many local government units will face steep increases in 2010 to remain in compliance with the law[11].

Land usage

New Trier Choices also claimed that the proposed land usage for the planned project would have violated zoning standards set under Illinois law. The current high school was classified as a R4 on zoning allowances. If the bond referendum had been approved, there could be the possibility that the new high school could be in excess of current Illinois laws on land use allowance according to New Trier Choices.

The proposed new competition field house for basketball, wrestling, and volleyball on the Winnetka campus was the reason why the planned project could be exceeding Illinois land usage requirements[12].

Open records request

The Chicago Daily Observer reported in its January 28, 2010 edition that open records they obtained from the Love New Trier, Vote No group showing that the original $248 a year cost estimate would rise to $641 a year when the bonds mature in 2030. The records that were a summary from the district's bond issuing agent, found that if the referendum was approved that property taxes would have increased 258 percent over 20 years[13]. New Trier is currently only one of eight school districts in the State of Illinois to have an AAA bond rating from Moody's[14].

Timeline of events

  • 2007-New Trier Township High School District starts conducting studies of possible renovations at the Winnetka campus of the high school.
  • November 16, 2009-The New Trier Township High School District Board approves a resolution calling for a $174 million dollar referendum question on a 9-0 vote. The resolution allowed for the measure to be placed on the February 2nd ballot[15].
  • November 20, 2009-The Our New Trier group files a Statement of Organization with the Illinois State Board of Elections as a local committee for the purpose of supporting the referendum[16].
  • November 27, 2009-The Love New Trier, Vote No group files a Statement of Organization with the Illinois State Board of Elections as a local committee for the purpose of opposing the referendum[17].
  • December 15, 2009-The New Trier Township High School District files a Statement of Organization with the Illinois State Board of Elections as a local committee for the purpose of electioneering communications[18].
  • January 7, 2010-New Trier Associate Superintendent Donald Goers was quoted in the Pioneer Press of Wilmette saying that the proposed $248-$295 tax increase upon voter approval could increase by ten percent every three years during the 20 year life of the bond[19].
  • February 2, 2010-New Trier Township voters soundly reject the referendum on a near 2 to 1 margin with high turnout for the election[20].
  • February 15, 2010-New Trier Township Board of Education will re-convene in planning a ballot question for the November 2, 2010 general election[20].

Text of measure

The Wording of the ballot question as follows is:

Shall the Board of Education of New Trier Township High School District Number 203, Cook County, Illinois, build and equip additions to; improve the site of; and alter, repair, equip and replace portions of the District’s buildings at the Winnetka Campus, and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $174,000,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?

See also

External links

References

  1. Cook County, "Referenda List"
  2. "Illinois Board of Education" 2006 Bond Referenda Results
  3. Cook County Clerk's Office, February Election Results
  4. 4.0 4.1 "New Trier School District" Referendum Fact Sheet
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 "New Trier School District" Building Facts Sheet
  6. "New Trier School District" Project Results of February 2, 2010 referendum
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "New Trier Choices" The $174 million question (flyer)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Chicago Tribune" Double-digit property tax increases in city, Cook County suburbs, October 27, 2009
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Love New Trier, Vote No" Only $248? Not really, January 14, 2010
  10. "Love New Trier, Vote No" Taxes and the Local Economy
  11. "Trib Local" Villages brace for pension fund fallout in 2010, December 13, 2009
  12. "New Trier Choices" Land Use Facts
  13. Chicago Daily Observer "FOIA Separates Myth from Fact at New Trier," January 28, 2010
  14. New Trier High School District "NTHSD 203 Funding Recommendations" November 3, 2009(See Slide 23)
  15. Chicago Breaking News "New Trier board OKs $174M referendum," November 16, 2009
  16. Illinois State Board of Elections "New Trier HSD Statement of Organization" November 20, 2009
  17. Illinois State Board of Elections "New Trier HSD Statement of Organization" November 27, 2009
  18. Illinois State Board of Elections "New Trier HSD Statement of Organization" December 15, 2009
  19. Pioneer Press "Clarification," January 14, 2010
  20. 20.0 20.1 Pioneer Local "Voters say no to New Trier referendum," February 2, 2010
  21. "Cook County Board of Elections" February 2, 2010 referendum list