Chicago Tribune | Glenbard D87 seeks $35 million for renovations

TUA President Jim Tobin was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article about the Glenbard tax hike.

tribglenbardVoters in the March primary will decide whether Glenbard High School District 87 can borrow $35 million to upgrade its buildings.

If the tax increase is approved, debt will be refinanced so the tax rate will not be increased for the bond and interest fund, school officials said. The homeowner of a $300,000 home, for example, would continue paying about $70 a year toward that fund, officials said. The school district’s total tax bill for the owner of a home of that value would be $2,278.

The money would be used for a number of improvements at the district’s buildings, which range from 42 to 88 years old, school officials said.

“Our four high schools are key venues in the community, not just for our students but for our community events on evenings and weekends,” said Superintendent David Larson. “They’re great, well-used assets, but they’re old and tired.”

In all, the district is planning about $100 million in renovations, which includes upgrades to entrances, building security and mechanical systems, along with renovation of science labs, classrooms and adding greener technology. Two of the four high schools, Glenbard East and Glenbard West, are not fully air-conditioned, Larson said.

“We want a fair, comfortable and equitable environment for all our students. I’ve been in those rooms during a hot day in September and it’s just really uncomfortable.”

During the hottest days of the school year, portable fans are brought in and the shades are pulled down, Larson added. During last year’s heat wave, a teacher last year became dehydrated and had to be hospitalized, he said.

Therese Crawford has two students at Glenbard West High School, which is one of the schools without air conditioning.

“They’d come home saying that it’s upward of 90 degrees in the classroom,” she said. “To come home exhausted with a headache and not being able to drink enough water, there’s no constructive learning on those days.”

Crawford is planning to vote for the tax increase.

And so is John Mulrow, a Wheaton resident who graduated from Glenbard South High School and lives within District 87 boundaries. He doesn’t have children in the district but is an advocate of green technology.

“Just reading about the inefficient air conditioning units and old boilers on site, I’m thinking about the wasted electricity and natural gas being used in those buildings,” he said.

Residents may have seen fliers from a support organization called Glenbard4Kids, which has been actively campaigning for the borrowing plan.

“We feel it’s a fiscally sound approach,” said Steve Garwood, spokesman for the group. “We save money in the long term by issuing bonds now at favorable rates.”

Fliers opposing the referendum have also been distributed, coming from a group called Taxpayers United of America. The group is encouraging voters to reject not only the Glenbard measure, but a number of others on the March ballot.

“We’ve been targeting property tax increase referenda,” said Jim Tobin, president and founder of the group. “If the bonds are paid off, people would get a cut in their property taxes, but these bozos want to preclude the taxpayers from getting a cut. That’s a property tax increase.”

Tobin said he has been knocking on doors and passing out fliers in districts where he opposes ballot issues that would raise taxes.

The district’s existing loans are set to be paid off over the next several years. If new borrowing is not approved, the average homeowner is expected to save an average of about $6 per month, school officials said.

If the measure passes, the renovations will start this year and happen over the next 10 years, Larson said. The more noticeable improvements, including the new air-conditioning, likely won’t happen until summer of 2016.

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