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113 Board Votes on $89 Million Referendum Monday

If measure is approved, voters will decide the fate of capital improvement projects at Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools April 9.

A $114 million renovation project for Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools funded in part of an $89 million referendum bond will considered by the Township High School District 113 Board of Education at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Administration Building.

The remaining $25 million will come from current budgets, according to a news release from the District.

Earlier: 113 Board Tackles Funding of Renovation Plans

If the Board approves the measure Monday, citizens will have their say April 9. In part, this plan is a scaled down version of a $133 million proposal rejected by 56 percent of the voters two years ago.

The proposed improvements include $47.8 million to update infrastructure including mechanical systems at both schools, $26.1 million to repurpose, refurbish and rebuild 100-year-old structures at Highland Park High School, $40.8 million to build new swimming pools and gymnasiums at each school and $3.8 million to refurbish the Deerfield High School library. Details can be found on the District website.

“A large part is for upgrading mechanical systems which have outlived their life expectancy,” District Communications Director Natalie Kaplan said. Fire fighting sprinkler coverage will be upgraded. “We will expand sprinkler coverage into uncovered areas.” Wiring at both schools will be upgraded to meet modern technology needs.

At this point Board President Harvey Cohen plans to vote to place the referendum on the April 9 ballot though he promised to keep an open mind.

“I think we owe it to our kids to give them better facilities,” Cohen said. “There will be no negative impact on education, class size, classes offered or extracurricular activities offered. When we complete all the planned (improvements) we’ll have better schools.”

. Sam Shapiro of Highland Park, one of the advocates against the 2010 referendum, questions the new plan.

“I have many concerns over the new plan the Board needs to address before rushing into a new referendum,” Shapiro said. “There are too many questions and concerns.” Among other things, Shapiro wants more information before he can determine whether the 100-year-old buildings should be refurbished.

Harry Steindler of Deerfield, who worked actively to pass the referendum two years ago, is happy with the community process more than 18 months in the making which arrived at the latest set of ideas.

“The process has been fantastic with work by professionals and very involved community members,” Steindler said. “It’s a good approach to tier one improvements and laying the groundwork for future improvements.”

One of Shapiro’s concerns is a lack of detail on potential future work. “The plan is showing only phase one,” he said. “So we don’t know what is included in phase two or three and what it might be.”

In particular, Steindler is pleased the Board found $25 million from existing money rather than pay for everything through a referendum. “It’s a good approach to take some from reserves,” he said. “It’s helpful.”

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Carl Lambrecht January 09, 2013 at 09:13 PM
Highland Park High School had two pools for my children. My grandchildren had only one pool. It cost $250,000 to destroy the second pool. Brad Swanson (Principal) mother in law was superintendent at the time. Highland Park High School according to the state of Illinois is a failing school for about the last five years.
DeerfieldResident January 09, 2013 at 10:39 PM
With all the community involvement opportunities and extensive planning and research that has taken place, how can anyone say the district is rushing into this? You may not agree with the referendum or the expenditures, but this has been analyzed and discussed every which way. I will be voting in favor of the referendum. You only need to walk around the schools to see how they are in need of upgrading. DHS is one of the best high schools in the state and should have a better physical property to match the outstanding education.
Sue Richman January 10, 2013 at 12:54 PM
One issue that hasn't been addressed throughout the discussion process and needs to be is has the District adequately investigated future student population trends- The WSJ ran an article yesterday on demographics focusing on CA but it was startling that Illinois has had a 10 percent drop in births over the last decade- almost the largest drop in the country- assuming HP and Deerfield are also having a similar trend one has to ask- what will the student populations be at our two High Schools in 10 years and has the time come to investigate whether we will need the two campuses- Would it be better to incur the expense now and look into consolidation- the costs up front will be significant but the savings over time will also be significant- before the community is asked to spend a dollar on upgrading the existing facilities someone needs to be answering the question as to what the physical plant needs are going to be over the next 10 to 30 years-School boards have been notorious in spending money on yesterday's needs and ignoring what the student populations will be in the near and longer future- HP and to a lesser extent Deerfield are mature stable ommunities- if there is not going to be any growth and more likely a decline in student populations the question must be what are the appropriate buildings going to be?
Ken Robertson January 10, 2013 at 01:38 PM
Actually, this was reviewed and discussed and taken into account by study groups and the district. You can read an article about it right here on Patch (http://highlandpark.patch.com/articles/district-113-projects-enrollment-drop-by-2020). This is more relevant than a broad-based article in the WSJ and making assumptions. Honestly, I don't see how you could justify consolidation based on even a 10% drop - neither school can accommodate that population.
Sue Richman January 10, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Lets see- one princial -half the administratives costs- how about a new Building and sell off the existing campuses-
D'skidoc January 10, 2013 at 01:41 PM
Sue, that issue has been explored both as part of the original Wight and co. study and again at the beginning of the study group process almost 2 years ago. The community doesn't support such a proposal and there isn't space for such a plan in the district. The costs were also felt to be exceptionally high. This is a non-starter, but you're awfully late to the game as well. The Long Term Plan is already put to bed and now it's time to move forward and enact phase one of the Plan.
D'skidoc January 10, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Go back to the original figures. From what I recall from 3 years ago (I am willing to be corrected) it would have cost almost $300 million to construct a new single campus from scratch, demolish the other two, and still you have no place in the district to put said new school. DHS is on a flood plain; you probably couldn't redevelop that property successfully anyway. Besides all that, our communities see the value in having two smaller schools. One of the reasons I live here and not in Glencoe or Lincolnshire. Good reason for someone with young children to buy your house if you don't want to live here cuz of the taxes.
Sue Richman January 10, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Hi S'skidoc- must be nice being smarter then the rest of us- I have a clue for you- based on the election last year the community doesn't support the School Board's desire to spend the money on its new pools and other extravagant proposals- Last time anyone looked- education outcomes have very little to do with dollars expended- lets spend money on the teachers not the buildings- and we might want to await the outcome of the pension resolution out of Springfield to see how much $$ it imposes on local school districts so we know what the longer term tax hit will be
Ken Robertson January 10, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Sue - I appreciate your SWAG in positioning this alternative, but since this is a complex issue (as you know, we had hundreds of community members and professionals analyze and develop the current proposal) and a determination was made that your alternative is not viable, might I suggest that you provide more details as to how you justify this? What actual costs can be saved, how much would construction cost, what is the value of the land to be sold, how much would purchasing new land cost if necessary, etc, etc?
RB January 10, 2013 at 02:16 PM
Woodland is now a Park, Maplewood is now a Park, the school on Wilmont is leased to a business. These Parks don't contribute to the tax base, they cost money. They are evidence that we have built more education building capacity than we needed in the past. Yes, there's a long range plan. Her point about waiting to see how much these Pensions are going to cost us locally is a sound thought. These Districts have been jacking up pensions for years figuring they would get away with it, now we're all about to pay for it. Someday, Deerfield should take a good hard look at why we have two school Districts, a Library District, a Township, a water district.....all this overhead and associated pensions is costing us a lot of tax dollars. Take a look at your tax bill.
D'skidoc January 10, 2013 at 03:22 PM
When you don't have any facts just go right to the insult Sue. btw...physical activity and athletics DO have a positive effect on educational outcomes. Half century and century old buildings are just that....old. We're not using blackboard and chalk anymore. If your house had a 50 year old furnace that had served you well, but was old, inefficient and irrepairable, you'd replace it. Teachers are being paid well and doing incredible work under less than ideal conditions, but operating expenses (salaries and the like) are another separate issue. Pension issues are important too, but also off the subject, and unrelated to capital improvements which are needed to support current educational programs. Loaded words like extravagant also suggest the opposite of what the plan represents: Solutions to NEEDS identified by a broad cross-section of the community, with due respect to the taxpayers. Check the math too....this proposal will result in lower tax rates than we have experienced through the entire prior decade.
RB January 10, 2013 at 03:47 PM
I'm in agreement that the physical buildings should be first class. My point is that we must coordinate spending and that's a little of what Sue suggested when she brought up pensions. As an example: We have District 109 trying to find funding to justify putting air conditioning in classrooms (something I had in elementary school in the 60's) and 113 trying to find funding for pools and building improvements....while the Village spends almost $3 Million on an underpass at Deerfield road. See my point? We may have students unable to pay attention because it is so hot in their middle school classroom while High School students have AC and a functioning but outdated pool, and the Village builds an underpass and the Park District spends $millions on Woodland Park. What are the coordinated priorities? I also forgot the Fire District and the mosquito District when I listed the various taxing Districts earlier. Combine some Districts and coordinate use of tax dollars amongst all remaining taxing bodies or we'll continue having those with money spending it on less necessary things while those without struggle to find money.
Ken Robertson January 10, 2013 at 05:05 PM
RB - I understand your desire to make taxing decisions simpler, but that just isn't going to happen. The districts you mention are not all exclusive to Deerfield (some shared with other towns, some with the county), and to make them so would most likely drive up costs to Deerfield residents. Just as in your daily budget, you have to make the decision on whether you support the additional money to 113 based on all other costs. Do you avoid going to the grocery store because the price of milk may go up, thus potentially reducing the money you have for bread? No, because you need both milk and bread. Maybe you decide to walk, to save money on gas... The fact is that the capital needs at 113 will still exist no matter what pension decisions are made, or whether or not an underpass is built. The board, with lots of community input, has presented a good plan, that is not extravagant, and looks at long-term needs so as to be flexible to hopefully accommodate future unknowns.
A concerned DHS Parent January 10, 2013 at 05:53 PM
It's not about building a pool or the underpass that the community built two years. It's about maintaining and upgrading our current facilities to allow them to grow for the future. I believe the school had projected a decrease in attendance this year and actually it grew by 50 students this year. Projecting student population is very difficult and is just a projection. Watch the following video. It talks about the lack of room the PE department experiences throughout the day. http://dist113.blob.core.windows.net/dhs/2012_04_05-DHSPhyEd/Default.html When this is all completed, I will not have a student in the high school and they will all have graduated. Even though I don't want to pay for it, its still the best for the students! This is what's best for the kids!!!
RB January 10, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Okay, granted ita wishful thinking but someone needs to say it. It is about building an underpass and pools and AC in classrooms and new parks. Why? Because its all paid for with our tax dollars. I would much rather not have $3 million go toward an underpass (that was not really needed, just wanted) and a more limited upgrade to Woodland Park so we don't have to see higher taxes for this school work. Somebody has to understand that all these tax bodies tack on a little here and there and we end up with one big household tax bill. I'd like to see lower Park District taxes if we are going to raise school taxes. I've seen what they do with our money and they have too much of it, especially if we don't have AC in classrooms. Prioritize don't just keep taking more money.
Carl Lambrecht January 10, 2013 at 08:53 PM
District 113 had 5000 students when my children went to school. Now it has less than 4000 students.
Walter White January 11, 2013 at 12:21 AM
That's like the 5,000th time you've posted that. Make your point already.
phylis bagan January 11, 2013 at 01:32 AM
This referendum is actually over $114Million. Let's NOT forget that reserves are taxpayer dollars. The other "phases"??? Where is THAT information? Where and when is that posted? Also, it's quite misleading g to say there will be only a $47 tax increase on a $300,000 home. That's for the year 2012. It goes WAY up to $247/ year in 2013(on a $$600,000home. ) That is much more indicative of the average home cost in this area. This was from the districts web site.
RonnieTheLimoDriver January 11, 2013 at 01:40 AM
Im interested to understand if the scope being proposed is different from what was proposed for the last referendum? If not, what makes the district think it will pass this time? I don't like to see such a high percentage of the money spent on athletics and physical education.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther January 11, 2013 at 02:12 AM
The project is 114 Million. The referendum is 89 Million. The secondary phases are somewhere down the line, if ever. Because there is no timetable, there is not a valid way to determine future costs, so that is a moot point. It is not part of the referendum. In terms of PE spaces, the pools need to be replaced. They are over 40 years old and in very poor condition. Likewise, Building "C" at Highland Park, which has two gyms, will be very expensive to preserve and put back into condition to meet the 25-50 year criteria for extending the life of the facilities. This makes it necessary to replace those gyms. Both schools suffer from a lack of teaching space for the PE programs as currently offered. Note this is space for education, not athletics. As far as differences from the inital referendum, there are many. For instance, there are no field houses in this proposal. "B" building at Highland Park will be preserved and the space used efficiently. The pool enclosures are smaller. There is no work being performed on the Highland Park cafeteria. These are but a few examples. Those who believed that the cost of construction would not have risen in the two years since the referendum was defeated, were not being realistic. The plan as recommended supports the Tier I priorities developed by the citizen's committees.
Eddie Jacobs January 11, 2013 at 03:30 AM
Very well stated Tripp! Since I did not suppoert the previous referendum.Now, I feel extremely confident that the district and board have done everything possible to develop a master plan that truly reflects what is in the best interest of the educational process as well as being mindful of all segments of our population. The steering committee's recomendations to the school board were as a result of many hours of study, discussion, and analysis of the information provided from the professional firms hired by the board, Perkins & Will and Gilbane and the administration. Of course, cost was an important element in the recomendations. But, more important was trying to do as much as possible to address the tier one needs that were developed from the community and staff study groups while at the same time being careful with "our" money both in terms of propery taxes as well as with the district's funds which I know come primarily from us. The reality is these improvements are needed, overdue, and VERY well documented. The "contributions" from the district's coffers are seperate and distinct from the maintenance and operating funds and show that they have some skin in the game. As for the numbers presented as an example of what the referendum will cost an "average" homeowner, the current example is correct as well as numbers will be presented that reflect post 2013 bond roll off figures. We NEED to support this proposed referendum for current and future generations.
Eddie Jacobs January 11, 2013 at 04:47 AM
Phylis-feel free to call me on Friday and I would be happy to discuss your questions with you. I appreciate your comments.

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