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School board weighs options to cover $6.5 million in construction bills

January 19, 2019

DIXON – The School Board plans to issue more bonds to pay for about $6.5 million in school improvement costs and hopes that it will be enough to cover any other unexpected increases.

The district has undergone a major construction overhaul at Dixon High School and Jefferson and Washington elementary schools during the past 2 years for improvements and bringing the facilities up to code, with work at the high school accounting for the bulk of the costs, which have grown to around $38 million.

Much of the cost increases that came about in recent of months were difficult to predict, such as the need for additional repairs that weren’t discovered until work had started.

About $4.35 million will come from issuing the remainder of alternate revenue bonds that the board authorized last year – the group had the option to take out up to $15 million of those bonds but decided in April to issue only $10.65 million.

Those bonds are being paid back by part of the revenue the district makes with the 1 percent sales tax increase that went into effect July 2017 for funding facility improvements.

The plan is to issue another $2.5 million in health-life safety general obligation bonds, which are more restrictive on what they can be used for, to cover project overages for work including masonry, plaster, plumbing, roofing and stage rigging at the high school.

That’s on top of about $21.4 million in bonds issued in 2017 for health-life safety work.

The $2.5 million would be paid back through property taxes, and the increase to residents depends on the pay-back timeframe the board approves.

Paying the bonds back across 20 years would mean an extra $11.62 in property tax for a $100,000 home, $14.77 for the 15-year option or $21.69 for the 10-year option, Superintendent Margo Empen told the board Wednesday.

Also put toward the $6.5 million would be $154,000 from a ComEd grant and $180,000 from what the district levies annually for health-life safety work.

That would create a surplus of about $656,000, but construction estimates presented this week shrunk that prediction to around $378,000.

Any surplus would go toward paying the bonds, but Empen said they need to try and have a big enough buffer for any future construction cost increases.

“I don’t think we would be fiscally responsible if we didn’t have a cushion,” Empen said.

The district has also worked to whittle down project costs, including saving about $66,000 by deciding not to put in new flooring with Jefferson’s gym, which will become the cafeteria.

The board will be voting on the bonds in the coming months.

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