Champaign school board OKs $4.9 million bond issue

Champaign school board OKs $4.9 million bond issue

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district will issue a second round of working cash bonds to pay for a wireless network across the school district and a new transportation facility.

The Champaign school board voted 5-0 Monday to issue up to $4.925 million in working cash bonds, as a part of a total $14.5 million bond issue it approved a year ago.

Board members Dave Tomlinson and Ileana Saveley were absent.

The school district hasn't yet taken action on either the new transportation facility or the wireless network, but the school board last month heard a presentation that estimated the cost of the latter at about $765,000.

Champaign schools spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart said the school board is in negotiations to buy a property for the transportation facility and is waiting to hear back about the costs associated with renovating it.

The school district last year issued $9.575 million in working cash bonds for various construction projects, including geothermal systems and new windows at Jefferson and Franklin Middle Schools, energy-efficient lights in those buildings and at Edison Middle School and Central High School.

The bond issue is expected to raise property taxes about $25 for the owner of a $150,000 house.

The school board also unanimously approved a change to the current contract it has with the union that represents school district support staff.

That change gives the support staff a 1 percent raise, retroactive to last July, because of a stipulation in the contract that says it can be reopened if the school district's teachers negotiate a 3 percent raise or more. That happened when the teachers and school district negotiated a new contract last fall.

That's the only change to the contract, which expires this summer.

The Champaign Educational Support Professionals ratified the tentative agreement Saturday.

The raise will cost the school district about $120,000, Stuart said.

Also Monday, the school board approved hiring Tony Howard as associate principal at Edison Middle School, and Cynthia Levy as associate principal at Franklin Middle School. They'll start their new positions Aug. 1. Howard is currently Edison's assistant principal and Levy is Franklin's interim assistant principal.

The board also approved combining one of each high school's assistant principal positions with a high school summer school principal position. The new combined position will be chosen from the four current assistant principals at each high school, and each will serve as principal for half of the summer school session. The people doing those jobs will also be in charge of extra duties, like planning freshman orientations, building tours and other activities to ease students' transitions to high schools. Ken Kleber, the school district's executive director of human resources, said the new positions will cost the school district an additional $1,500 each, because the school district will use money for their salaries it would have otherwise paid summer school principals.

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bluegrass wrote on February 12, 2013 at 9:02 am

Perhaps someone in the know could comment here.  I'm confused as to why the school board is raising property taxes to pay for these bonds.  Aren't transportation facilities and wireless networks they type of infrastructure line items that were supposed to be paid for by the 1% sales tax?

Meg Dickinson wrote on February 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm
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Hi bluegrass, sorry for my late reply. The school district has a specific list of things they said they'd do with the sales tax money if the question passed (I was not covering the schools at the time, hence my use of "they said").

You can find that list in this July 2011 News-Gazette article, and I'll quote from it:

"The sales tax money the Champaign school district receives goes into two funds. One is for expenditures promised to voters when school administrators were seeking voter approval of the new tax. They include: building a new Booker T. Washington Elementary School; expanding and renovating Garden Hills Elementary School; renovating four other elementaries — Westview, Bottenfield, Robeson and Kenwood (including adding geothermal systems at all but Kenwood, which is getting a new boiler/chiller system); building a new elementary school in Savoy; and buying land for a new high school.

The district issued $83 million in bonds for those projects February 2010, and the $5.5 million from the sales tax needed to make payments on the bonds each year is put into the first fund.

The other $1 million or so the district receives annually goes into the second fund, to be used for deferred maintenance such as this summer's projects."

The school district's "Promises Made, Promises Kept" committee was created to keep an eye on how the school district is using the school facility sales tax money.

Arlene Blank, who leads that committee, is serving on one of the school board's short-term seats (she's both a former administrator and school board member). She said Monday during the meeting that the school district is doing what it said it would with that money.

Hope that helps,

Meg