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Alden-Hebron School District 19 residents to face $20.3M referendum question

Alden-Hebron School District 19 requesting funding for new facility

Residents within the Alden-Hebron School District 19 boundary lines will face a referendum question on the
April 2 ballot.

The district is requesting taxpayer approval for a $20.3 million plan to build a new facility for its middle and high school students. A person who owns a $150,000 home could expect to see the school district portion of their property tax bill go up by $913 if the referendum passes.

For some, it’s a tough sell.

Residents have questioned whether the district’s 211 middle and high school students need a new facility. How people will be able to afford the increase also is a major concern, particularly among Hebron’s older residents who are on fixed incomes.

Some parents with students in the school have a different point of view.

“The addition of a new school would be a plus for our community,” said Jennifer Norton, who has lived in Hebron since 2001 and has a son in eighth grade. “If a school was to close down in town and the kids were bused into another district, our property values would decrease.”

The District 19 board considered the idea of reorganizing or consolidating, but the process would be complex, board member Johnny Eskridge said at an information session Wednesday.

The likeliest form of reorganization would be annexation, where Richmond, Woodstock or Harvard would annex District 19 to its own.

A feasibility study would have to be conducted to examine logistics such as facilities, debt amounts, financial projections, transportation, staffing, enrollment, demographics, extracurricular activities and curriculum, Eskridge said.

Tax rates also would face consideration.

“Due to the fact that Alden-Hebron’s tax rate is the lowest of the four districts, the tax rate for Alden-Hebron would increase,” Eskridge said. “Alden-Hebron would take on the tax rate of the district that it was annexed into, not including its outstanding long-term debt.”

Residents in both Alden-Hebron and the annexing district would have to approve the reorganization with a referendum, he said.

Immediate health and life safety requirements for the buildings total $250,000 to $300,000. A total renovation cost of $17.4 million includes security and accessibility improvements; roof and window replacements; and plumbing and mechanical system improvements, according to documents provided at the meeting

The renovation cost also includes bringing the facility up to “21st-century” standards by removing mobile classrooms; creating collaborative learning spaces; improving science and art labs; and upgrading athletic, cafeteria and kitchen spaces.

The proposed school would be constructed on land the district bought in 2016 at the intersection of Price and Kemman roads. The land was owned by Daniel Walters, the father-in-law of then-District 19 board President Susan Walters.

The facility is proposed to have
22 classrooms, two science labs, a library, a gym and a band room. The common areas are designed for up to 400 students, according to documents provided at Wednesday’s meeting.

Matt Misiek, who lives in Hebron and has kids in the district, said he is torn on whether to vote in favor of the proposal.

“It’s definitely a huge decision for the community,” he said. “This town has a unique identity. If you choose to go with reorganization to another district, then you lose that identity.”

He said he could see both sides of the matter, but he ultimately wants to make a decision with the district’s students first in mind.

District 19 will allow residents to tour the facility at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday. The school is at 9604 Illinois St., Hebron.

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