The Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 Board of Education voted 6 to 0 on Jan. 12 to place a referendum question on the ballot in the spring, asking voters to approve issuing $20 million in construction bonds to fund expanding and renovating both schools in the district.
The question that will appear on the April 4 ballot will read: “Shall the Board of Education of Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95, Cook County, Illinois, build and equip additions to and alter, repair and equip the Brook Park Elementary and S.E. Gross Middle School buildings, improve the sites thereof and issue bonds of said school district to the amount of $20 million for the purpose of paying a portion of the cost thereof?”
Board members had until Jan. 17 to approve a resolution to place a referendum question on the ballot and file it with the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said the school district now has firmer cost estimates for the building campaign, based on calculations done by the firm the school board hired as its construction manager.
The improvements are pegged at $35 million, though the final price tag won’t be known until the school district solicits bids for the work later this year, if the referendum succeeds.
Kuzniewski said that the plan was revised slightly to contain costs and to ensure moving the district’s Early Childhood Education program, which presently is held in one classroom at S.E. Gross School, to Brook Park School.
“There were no major changes,” Kuzniewski said.
If the referendum is successful, homeowners in District 95 for the next 20 years will see their property tax bills increase about $59 for every $1,000 they paid in 2016 in real estate taxes. That money will pay the debt service on the bonds.
According to Kuzniewski, there will be a referendum tax impact calculator on the District 95 website (www.district95.org) where homeowners can enter the amount they pay in taxes and get a precise figure on the impact to them specifically. That calculator ought to be live sometime this week, said Kuzniewski.
The school district also plans on issuing $15 million in alternate revenue bonds to pay for the remainder of the construction cost. The debt service for that bond issue will be paid out of general operating funds.
The school district will also need the Illinois General Assembly to pass legislation allowing it to exceed its debt ceiling. District 95 has the capacity for issuing about $10 million in new debt before hitting that limit.
State Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) is working with district officials to move ahead with the legislation, said Kuzniewski.
Plans calls for a roughly 40,000-square-foot, two-story, L-shaped addition to Brook Park School in LaGrange Park. The addition would include 18 new classrooms, including six first-floor classrooms to house an all-day kindergarten program.
The first-floor would also include a classroom to house the Early Childhood Education program and a roughly 8,000-square foot gymnasium.
There are 11 more classrooms planned for the second story of the addition, including an art classroom and specials classroom.
Over at S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield, the plan is to construct a new 15,109-square-foot gymnasium immediately west of the existing school building on the asphalt running track area.
Plans also call for a complete renovation of the three-story triangular north wing of the school. The planned renovation includes building a “cafetorium,” a hybrid cafeteria/auditorium on the ground floor. Above the cafetorium, the existing auditorium would be replaced with two floors for classrooms, including a two-story band room.
A citizen group advocating for the referendum is in the process of forming, and it’s being led by Scott Encher, who is running for a seat on the District 95 school board in April.
That group likely will be hosting walk-throughs of the school buildings and hosting information sessions prior to the April 4 vote.
The school district itself cannot, by law, advocate for the referendum. But there will be information about the proposed construction projects, building plans and an FAQ section available on the school district’s website, said Kuzniewski.
If the referendum is successful this spring, construction would begin in the spring of 2018, according to Kuzniewski and continue at both schools through the 2018-19 school year.
The projects would be finished in time for the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.