The District 200 Board of Education has approved the scope of the schematic design presented for Imagine OPRF Project 2. Finally, this board said that conditions in these 1928 facilities were unacceptable for our community high school, and these very important improvements must be done.
Just five days later, at the D200 Community Finance Committee (CFC) meeting, the committee batted down the idea of using debt certificates to fund Project 2 without providing any research or data — or even engaging in significant discussion — as to why these certificates might not work.
The CFC chair acknowledged that the CFC failed in its own directive to have a three-person subcommittee meet to dive deep into the numbers of this project: to put it bluntly, the subcommittee never met. How can this committee then be fully informed of the funding options available to them if they’ve never convened?
The CFC chair simply stated that the community wants a referendum so the project funding should go to a referendum.
This supposition lacks common sense. This community wants Project 2 to be funded the fastest and least expensive way possible. The only way this can be accomplished is with debt certificates. A referendum will delay construction by a year or more, adding millions in avoidable costs each year.
The board and the CFC have received dozens of letters supporting debt certificates to fund Project 2. Yet not only did the committee have little discussion about its rejection of debt certificates, it also appeared to be wholly uninformed — or at the very least, less than transparent — about the ramifications of using other methods to fund this needed work.
A referendum is not just about a yes/no vote. The approval of referendum bonds would add an extra debt levy to property tax bills, on top of the usual annual levy, for the life of the debt. Debt certificates, on the other hand, do not add an extra levy to property tax bills.
Furthermore, many in our community have come forward and offered to pay “more than their share.” The hard work of the Imagine Foundation will contribute private funds. Yet these potential contributions were dismissed as inconsequential to any numbers the CFC might analyze.
The defined purpose of the Community Finance Committee is to provide the D200 board and administration with ongoing expertise and guidance regarding the district’s fiscal operations. How can this committee advise anyone, never mind the school board of a taxing body, when they refuse to use information outlining what other districts have done to support projects of a similar scope? The short answer is, it can’t, and that’s a major disappointment.
I’m confident I speak on behalf of many in the community who want this work done for our current and future students as quickly as possible, funded in a way that costs the least. We need the CFC to do the, admittedly, difficult work with which it was charged and present the board with a variety of debt options.
I hope the conversations at the next CFC meeting on March 13 will be based on research and data, not just the foregone conclusion of any single member.