On March 21, Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 will ask the community for support on our building fund referendum.

Some citizens have asked questions and others appear to be misinformed about facts surrounding the referendum, so I would like to be as straightforward as possible and present information to our public.

The need to do major renovations to RB has been discussed with the community since 1998, and we have held dozens of meetings with the public since that time.

Some have asked for specific information about how much this referendum will cost, and others have exaggerated the cost to the public. We stand by the numbers we have presented to the citizens.

For a resident with a $300,000 market value home, the proposed bonds would increase taxes approximately $4.58 per week or $ 240 a year. The calculation is rather complex, but we have thoroughly reviewed the numbers and had our work examined by a financial advisor with expertise in the area of bond issues.

For a detailed explanation of the exact calculation, please go to www.rbhs208.org/refpage.htm. At this Web page you will also find a tax calculator and a detailed list of all of the Health and Life Safety projects that are mandated by the state board of education and part of this proposed building referendum.

It should also be noted that the district is employing a “level” debt service payment which means the annual payments stay the same for the life of the bonds?”20 years. Like a home mortgage, once in place, there will not be any other increase from these bonds when the value of a home increases. By having a level debt service, the district is able to reduce the tax rate should EAV increases occur.

The cost of operating the new facilities will be minimal and offset by cost savings from a more energy-efficient building. Our engineering firm has estimated that our utility costs will decrease by 10 percent with the improvements that are proposed.

This will save the district $60,000 per year. This should cover the cost of the two custodians needed for the additional space. We have conservatively estimated that we might need an additional $30,000 to cover incidentals and/or to make up the cost if the energy savings do not meet projections. The claims that RB would realize a 30-percent increase in operating budget or need to go to referendum because of the proposed renovation are simply false.

Some have been concerned about possible cost overruns on this project. We will employ a project manager and a construction manager to oversee the project. In addition to these professionals safeguarding the project, a committee of citizens with tremendous expertise in the areas of construction, architecture, construction management and construction litigation have reviewed our plans and numbers and have agreed to work with the district throughout the duration of the project.

The group of concerned citizens had serious questions about the project, but we sat down and now look forward to maintaining a partnership that will serve our students and our entire community.

If this group of tough-minded experts had serious lingering doubts, they would have raised a red flag to the community. The fact that they want to continue working with the district on this project sends a positive message to the community, and their efforts are greatly appreciated by the board.

Our Board of Education, administration, the citizens’ advisory committee and our project manager will also gain guaranteed maximum price assurances on this project to guarantee that all work is done and that the project does not come in over budget.

We have significant contingencies built into our referendum budget, and we have hired a well-respected architectural firm with a proven track record in renovating high schools.

Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208, our Board of Education and staff have earned the highest category rating from the Illinois State Board of Education for fiscal and budgetary practices four years in a row.

We are most confident that we will earn that distinction again this year. In fiscal year 2005, RB earned a 3.9 out of 4.0 rating.

RB is one of the most improved and highest performing high schools in Illinois, yet we spent less per pupil from our operating fund in 2006 then we did in the previous year.

We understand the importance of protecting the taxpayers’ investment in our school and students. We know that we need the building referendum to pass to maintain quality education for our students.

We also believe that passing this referendum will protect the quality of our communities and the taxpayers’ investment in our school, homes and community. Please vote “yes” for the building referendum for RB High School on March 21.

 Larry Herbst is president of the District 208 Board of Education.