D-158 looks to restructure debt, avoid tax increases

Board also supports budget to renovate Huntley High School fields

HUNTLEY – District 158 would level its repayment on $191 million infrastructure debt and avoid substantial property tax increases, under a restructuring plan presented Thursday to the district board.

The Huntley school district has been trying to retool its debt repayments, as officials were facing a 67 percent increase in bond and interest payments next year. The district would not have been able to shoulder the $5.2 million increase without property tax increases, said Chief Financial Officer Mark Altmayer.

"We have to restructure our debt because the community cannot absorb a 67 percent increase in bond and interest costs," Altmayer said. "They would see a very large tax increase."

The multiphase plan would minimize annual debt repayment increases to about 3.5 percent and extend final repayment four or six years further from the original deadline of 2024.

It also would lessen the immediate need for property tax increases in exchange for future increases in 2024 and beyond.

Board members on Thursday were generally supportive of the plan, but left a decision on how far to extend its final repayment until the summer, when the administration would present the board with a final plan that would seek to capitalize on low interest rates.

The way the district restructures its infrastructure debt also is influenced by the money needed to expand Huntley High School to accommodate 3,000 students by 2019, Altmayer said.

The district originally was hoping the expansion would cost $12 million, but the architects overseeing the project informed board members last month that the expansion would cost at least $30 million.

The district had intended to use an overdue $39 million state grant received last year to finance the expansion and pay down its infrastructure debt. A pricey expansion project would consume more of the grant and leave less for debt repayment, Altmayer said.

"The two have to go hand-in-hand because we are utilizing this grant to pay for the expansion and any remaining funds we would need to bake into the restructuring calculation," he said.

Board members have said they would possibly look at stripping some elements from the school expansion project to bring costs closer to the original estimate.

In other business, the board voiced support for the $3.24 million budget to renovate the high school's athletic fields, including added seating for the Red Raiders football stadium.

The field improvements have been the district's initial priority in expanding the high school. The board will officially vote on the budget and a $242,992 lump sum fee to the project's architects during its meeting April 18.

Members also signified support for the agreement with Lamp Inc., the Elgin company overseeing construction of the athletic field renovation. The agreement lays out responsibilities and compensation for the work, which is scheduled to start this summer.

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