District 15 board unanimously approves $93 million referendum question for Nov. 8 ballot
Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board members have voted unanimously to put a $93 million tax-hike request on the Nov. 8 ballot that would fund half of a proposed $186 million improvement plan called Moving 15 Forward.
The other $93 million to pay for the plan would come from existing district funds and revenue sources.
Among the changes envisioned are converting the district's junior highs to middle schools, turning Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Hoffman Estates into one of those middle schools, bringing full-day kindergarten to every elementary school, making maintenance upgrades to aging facilities, making some adjustments to attendance boundaries, and better-aligning feeder schools with high schools in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211.
As Board President Lisa Beth Szczupaj pointed out, the recent voter approval of a referendum in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 would leave District 15 as the only one in the area not offering full-day kindergarten.
The proposed tax increase that would be sought in the referendum is 28% smaller than the tax-hike request voters rejected in 2016, officials said.
Through the sale of bonds that would be paid off over 22 years, the owner of a $100,000 home in the district would pay an additional $37 per year in property taxes. A $300,000 home would incur an additional $146 yearly, while a $500,000 home would pay an added $254 annually.
Before their votes, board members praised the amount of detail and foresight that went into the improvement plan.
"This plan is not perfect, no plan ever could be, but it's really damn good," board member Samantha Bray Ader said. "There has been so much data and information that has informed this that has made it fiscally responsible, that has ensured that we're not going back to the voters in 10 years for more money. But most of all, most importantly, it's what's best for our kids and it's what our community has been asking for a very long time."
Superintendent Laurie Heinz responded to board member James Taylor's question about whether any part of the plan could move forward without the voters' approval.
"We would literally go back to the drawing board, making sure that you would want us to issue the $93 million that we can," she said. "We would come up with a new plan. We would draft it and share it with you and get you to say 'yes' or 'no' to that until we had a winner."
Officials pointed out that it has been 34 years since District 15 voters last approved a tax increase for improvements.
Board Vice President Frank Annerino said he thought the new request couldn't be clearer.
"When you go out to the community and ask them for a referendum, I think the first thing that's going to come into any taxpayer's mind is, 'What am I getting for my money?'" Annerino said. "What's nice about this plan is it's very spelled out exactly what you're getting, and especially in the sense of all the work that's going to be done to the schools. All 20 schools are going to be worked on. A lot of capital improvements. That's a big change from the earlier referendum."
Board member Wenda Hunt asked as much effort be put into communicating with students and their families affected by the changes that would be caused by the plan, including understanding which schools they would attend.
Heinz spoke to $3 million in security improvements that have long been part of the plan, and the efforts that have been put into anticipating supply chain issues and numerous other variables.
"We work at this, it seems, every minute of every day," she said. "We really tried to plan for everything. Our contingency plans have contingency plans. We have mapped this out to the littlest detail to try to be really ready to go."
For more information on the referendum and Moving 15 Forward plan, visit District 15's website at ccsd15.net/M15F.