Mendon board learns elementary school upgrade would require 80-cent tax hike

Posted: Mar. 8, 2013 5:24 pm Updated: Mar. 29, 2013 10:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

MENDON, Ill. -- The Mendon School Board learned this week that an 80-cent increase in the district's tax rate would likely be needed to pay for a proposed $8.5 million renovation project at Mendon Elementary School.

Superintendent Diane Robertson emphasized the board has not made any decisions about the proposal but is merely researching possible options.

The proposed renovations are being discussed as a way to enable the Mendon School District to house all students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade in a single location.

Adding on to Mendon Elementary School -- and making some other modifications initially suggested in a 2002 architectural plan -- would allow the district to close Greenfield Elementary School.

In addition, the School Board is looking into the possibility of selling the Loraine Elementary School building, which has been shuttered the past two years. A resolution is expected to be considered at the board's March 20 meeting authorizing the sale of that building by sealed bids, which are to be opened in May.

The board met with David Pistorius, bond counsel from First MidState, to review various options for increasing the district's revenue if the need for such action arises the next couple of years. Some options being looked at include working cash bonds, funding bonds, debt certificates and other financing tools.

Pistorius also was asked to run numbers on how much of a tax increase would be needed to finance the Mendon Elementary School project, based on the 2002 architectural report. This proposal had an original pricetag of $4.5 million when it was rejected by voters in a 2002 referendum. If undertaken today, the same project would have a pricetag of about $8.5 million, Robertson said.

That's when Pistorius announced that an 80-cent tax hike would likely be needed to pay for the project over a 20-year period -- provided no changes are made to the original 2002 plan.

In other action, Robertson reported on several legislative issues that could impact the district. For example, she cited Gov. Pat Quinn's recent budget address, in which he called for a $400 million cut in state funding for education. Robertson said a cut of that magnitude would cost the Mendon School District about $200,000 in state aid and about $100,000 in transportation reimbursements.

Robertson said these cuts would come on top of a $300,000 loss in state aid this past fiscal year. The decline in state revenue has prompted the Mendon district to consider making some belt-tightening moves in coming months.

The board met with several coaches, sponsors and members of booster groups to solicit ideas for cutting expenses and increasing revenue for extracurricular programs.