Illini West looking for community help with referendum

Posted: Jan. 24, 2013 12:54 pm Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 1:15 pm

By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- The Illini West School Board is looking for more help from the community on a second try to pass a referendum for the district's first building.

Board members agreed earlier this month to put a referendum on the April 9 ballot to issue up to $8 million in school building bonds.

The bond issue covers the district's share of the cost for the proposed building. The state will pay 68 percent of the project cost for the first building for the converged district.

Voters in November rejected a referendum to issue up to $9 million in bonds, prompting board members to scale back costs for the building proposed for 40 acres of land just east of the football field and current high school parking lot.

Superintendent Kim Schilson worked with architect Mike Carter to "whittle" projected building costs.

"We've come up with a list of $1.1 million from reducing the number of acres the district purchases to landscaping," Schilson said.

Other options include not lighting the softball and baseball field, reducing the number of parking spots and trimming the number of bleacher seats in the gym.

"Possible things we could eliminate from the project are things 100 percent paid for by the district so we'll continue to get as much state funding as we can. None of the cuts affect the education of the students or the facility," Schilson said.

A districtwide committee, the Friends of Illini West, promoted the November ballot question. Many of those volunteers will be involved in the second effort, but board discussion Wednesday "was to have a key person in each community instead of one person over it all," Schilson said.

Plans call for major meetings in Carthage, Dallas City and LaHarpe, likely in March, and some smaller ones.

Supporters had pushed the first 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.

Board members in July agreed to buy 40 acres owned by Terry Junk, but he's willing to sell a smaller number of acres.

In other action, board members:

º Reviewed a planned change for the 2013-14 school calendar. Instead of 1 p.m. early dismissal days for school improvement, the district will use four full days. Schilson said the change will give teachers "enough time to accomplish something" in school improvement sessions and help with transportation costs associated with shortened days.

º Learned Joe Dion Sr. will retire effective June 30. Dion, the district's retired counselor, is working this school year on a 100-day contract.