District 12 considers bond referendum

JOHNSBURG – With infrastructure costs looming, the District 12 school board is thinking about asking residents to approve another round of borrowing.

With bonds set to retire in two years – they were issued around 2000 for building additions – the proposed bonds, if approved by voters, would mean the bond portion of property owners’ tax bills would stay the same instead of dropping as currently planned.

The board has until Dec. 10 to decide whether it will put the question, including the amount it’s asking for and what it will be used for, to the voters in March.

The district is capped on how much it can borrow by a formula tied to equalized assessed property values.

That number is expected to fall 11 percent, which would mean the district could get a maximum of $41 million, according to numbers presented to the board Tuesday evening.

The board could decide to ask for more in case property values begin to rise in the five years it would have to issue the bonds.

A list of improvements – updated wiring, paving parking lots and replacing heating and air conditioning units – has an estimated price tag of $42.3 million, Superintendent Dan Johnson said.

“Our facilities are deteriorating at a fast rate,” he said.

The district has struggled to address maintenance issues under its financial constraints, which include nonexistent fund balances – the district will have to borrow again to make ends meet while it waits for property taxes to come through – and dropping enrollment.

At a facilities forum hosted by the district earlier this month, an overwhelming number of attendees voiced interest in a fieldhouse.

“We don’t have a lot of choice,” board Vice President Scott Rowe said. “We can’t get through all the needs to even get to the wants.”

If the board decides to move ahead with the referendum, it can put together a list of how it would spend the money to present to voters before the election, Johnson said.

That discussion also is likely to include whether the district will keep Bush Elementary as a school.

The cost of repairing the school is raising questions on whether it’s worth keeping, Johnson said.

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