Illini West gathering information on its options for second referendum try

Tracey Anders
Posted: Dec. 20, 2012 9:41 am Updated: Jan. 10, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- The Illini West School Board will hold a special meeting in early January to decide whether to make a second attempt for a building bond referendum.

Board President Tracey Anders expects to call the meeting the second week of January. In the meantime, the district intends to gather more information on its options.

"We want to make sure we have all the best information we could have to make that decision," Anders said Thursday.

Voters in November rejected a referendum to issue up to $9 million in school building bonds, the district's share of the cost for a proposed $27 million high school. The state would pay 68 percent of the project cost for the first building for the converged district.

"We're looking, obviously, at everything, and whether we want to reduce anything, reduce the bond price," Anders said. "The biggest thing to decide is to resubmit it exactly as it was or reduce it."

The board, which discussed the referendum at Wednesday's meeting, also could look at the site for the proposed school building.

Board members in July agreed to buy 40 acres owned by Terry Junk and just east of the football field and current high school parking lot for the new school. The contract with Junk gives the district an option to buy the site within five years, with the price per acre based on market value when the sale is finalized.

Between now and the special meeting, the board will contact Junk about the possibility of buying less than 40 acres, "if we could have an option to buy 24 to 40 acres," Anders said. "I'm not saying we're going to reduce the amount as far the bond or the acres, but just to see if there would be any options there."

The board needs to decide about the referendum in early January, because the required paperwork for the April 9 election needs to be submitted to the county clerk by Jan. 22.

"One thing we should all agree on is the students need a new school," Anders said. "That's where you start from, how much you're willing to put out for that. When you get 70 percent paid for, it's something you should strongly consider no matter where it's located or the design of it."

Anders stressed the discussion centers on the dollar amount for the proposed school and not the final design.

"We have to put an amount on the ballot. What we're trying to determine is what to ask for," Anders said. "The hard part is you don't know with inflation how far that money is going to go."

Supporters had pushed the referendum as the best solution for the district, which now has classrooms not well-suited for today's students and technology and a building Illini West doesn't own that will need major renovations and additions.

Bonds would not be sold until the state was able to commit funds for the project, but if the district doesn't pass a referendum before the state money becomes available, Illini West will not receive the money and will be moved to the next year on the list of projects to be funded.

That means there's plenty of time to decide what a new building will look like.

"It's like ordering a car. You come up with the money, then we'll sit down and order that car. Right now, we don't have the means to pay for it," Anders said. "We just have to have a general idea of the school built to handle around 450 students. As far as any final design or anything like that, at this point, you're not going to know that."