A look at the referendums on Lake County ballots

Besides picking from a bounty of candidates running for school, village and other local government boards, voters in Lake County this spring also will be deciding issues ranging from a property tax hike for school improvements to the wording on a Sept. 11...

A look at the referendums on Lake County ballots

Besides picking from a bounty of candidates running for school, village and other local government boards, voters in Lake County this spring also will be deciding issues ranging from a property tax hike for school improvements to the wording on a Sept. 11 memorial.

Half the eight referendums on the April 4 ballot deal with schools in areas clustered near Antioch and Vernon Hills. Three of those involve renovations, expansions or upgrades, although only Hawthorn District 73's request would come with an increase in tax bills.

Diamond Lake District 76 and Antioch District 34 also are asking for voter approval to use property taxes to fund a variety of projects. Because past debts are being paid off, tax bills would stay the same. However, property owners would see bills drop if voters oppose the requests.

Here's a look at some of the ballot questions:

Increasing enrollment over the last decade, even without factoring in any new homes that might be built, has created tight fits at the six schools in the Vernon Hills-based K-8 district.

To address that, the school board, after months of discussion and study, selected a 10-year master plan and is asking voters for $42 million in new tax revenue to proceed with it. Approval would add $310 a year to the tax bill for a house valued at $350,000.

"We're growing and continuing to grow, and all our buildings are pretty much full," said Superintendent Nick Brown.

The proposal outlines work at each building, including adding science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas at all elementary schools and renovating those at middle schools.

The long-range plan also includes $3.1 million to buy nearly 12 acres near the south campus from the Vernon Hills Park District.

Those projects are in addition to a planned 18-room kindergarten addition at the park district's Sullivan Center across the street from District 73's south campus. The district plans to pay the estimated $11.8 million tab with existing funds, and that work is not part of the referendum request.

And though the kindergarten addition would free space in the buildings, it would not be a permanent solution, school officials say. Without voter approval, 20 or more portable classrooms will be needed, Brown said.

District 34 voters will be asked to allow the district to establish a "debt service extension base" of $1.4 million, capping the district's annual borrowing at that amount until 2034.

If successful, the measure would provide $18.8 million in new tax revenue to proceed with a variety of projects. The district would contribute $6.8 million more from its reserves.

There would be no change in tax bills, according to the district, because principal and interest payments would replace debt that is being paid off.

Without voter approval, property taxes for the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would drop $168.

District 34 for the past year has been evaluating its operations and buildings with extensive community input, and it has chosen a master plan intended to accomplish a number of objectives. They include eliminating 16 mobile classrooms.

Another priority is to change the attendance configuration to a K-5 structure. That would reduce the number of required transitions for students, create neighborhood schools and allow for more efficient bus service, officials say.

The district also wants to "increase the equity and quality of learning spaces" throughout the district by installing air conditioning where needed, separating gym and cafeteria space, and addressing fluctuations in classroom size, quality of lighting, room temperature and other variables that affect learning, officials said.

Officials are asking for authority to borrow $11.4 million for a variety of improvements at the Mundelein-based district's three schools.

"We consider these needs, not wants," said school board President Lisa Yaffe. "Many of these things people wouldn't see because they're infrastructure type things."

School officials say there will be no change in property tax bills if the measure is approved because the cost would replace debt being retired.

The $11.4 million figure "was set so there would not be a tax increase for debt service," Yaffe added.

Diamond Lake also went through a long-range facility planning process and prioritized improvements to be made in safety and security, education, and "critical infrastructure maintenance."

The list includes building entrance upgrades to a modern key card entry, camera system and other measures to deter unauthorized people. Also, the district library and related spaces would be improved.

The bulk of the list involves nuts-and-bolts repairs and upgrades, like replacing inefficient boilers or deteriorating plumbing and fixtures in bathrooms.

Information on the referendum is expected to be posted today on the parents and community page of the district's website, www.dist76.org.

Since at least 1965, state law has required the unincorporated area of the district be represented by at least two members on the school board.

But sometimes there have been no candidates from the area west and south of the village limits, which required the district to recruit and appoint board members.

"This process has become very time-consuming and increasingly more difficult," explained Superintendent Jim McKay. And because elected members are preferred to appointed ones, the district wants to change the rule beginning with the 2019 election.

If approved, the unincorporated area requirement would be dropped. Electing board members would be less restrictive and the likelihood of all open seats being filled would increase, according to the district.

"It's an arduous process. It seems like there should be an easier way to get this done," McKay said.

"We're hopeful the voters look at this say, `This makes sense.'"

In an advisory question, Wauconda voters will be asked whether village officials should approve storyboards for the Heroes of Freedom Memorial to include actions involving the global war on terrorism and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Supporters want to know if the memorial should include text about the U.S. military's participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Panels that mentioned those military conflicts were removed shortly after the memorial was dedicated in September 2015 because they were put up without the village board's approval.

The centerpiece of the memorial, a 7.5-ton steel beam salvaged from one of the fallen World Trade Center towers, has remained a solemn attraction.

But the placement of the storyboards is at a stalemate.

Voters in Round Lake and Highwood will be asked whether the clerks in those communities should be appointed by the village president or mayor with the consent of the village board and city council, respectively, rather than being elected.

In the Rockland Fire Protection District, voters will be asked whether trustees should be elected rather than appointed.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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