Highland Park, Deerfield D113 referendum forces gear up for Round 2
District 113 superintendent George Fornero details the facility improvements at Highand Park and Deerfield high schools that are part of the April 9 referendum during a Jan. 23 meeting at Deerfield High School. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 31, 2013 8:28AM
The pro and con forces behind High School District 113’s bond referendum are gearing up for a new tug-of-war to win over voters who cast ballots in the April 9 election.
Voters this spring will decide the fate of an $89-million borrowing request to update and upgrade school facilities at Highland Park and Deerfield high schools. Early voting begins March 25.
On the “pro” side, CLEAR in 113 has been picking up speed — and a social media presence — since filing with the State Board of Elections as a ballot initiative committee on Jan. 2. The group’s name stands for Community Leaders Educating and Advocating the Referendum in 113.
Chaired by Dan Jenks of Highland Park and Tony Horwitz of Deerfield, the group hopes to win over a sizable number of voters who cast “no” votes when the district appealed for $133 million two years ago. That measure failed 57 to 43 percent.
“Our community has answered the call for a ‘better plan’ and now is the time to support an investment in our high schools,” notes CLEAR in 113 on its website. The group is stressing the dollars are a “reinvestment in student success” and a wise one at that, as strong schools promote high home-resale values, bringing in the young families who provide a stable tax base.
“Our community high schools are aging structures which require upgrades to address basic needs and ensure safety, security and productivity for current students and future generations,” notes the group on its website. Proponents stress the district spent 18 months and involved more than 100 people in developing its new Master Facilities Plan.
On the “con” side, Education First in 113 is renewing its opposition campaign under the same name.
“The plan is nearly identical to the $133 million plan the district floated in 2011, without the field houses at each school,” said Frank Pirri, a Deerfield resident and chair of the organization.
Pirri stresses the district is really asking taxpayers to fund a $120-million plan for just the first phase of improvements. The $25 million coming from district funds and reserves over the next five years also is taxpayer money, he noted.
Moreover, there are no guarantees the district can cut another $6.4 million through “builder discounts,” as calculated in the referendum plan, he said.
Not surprisingly, the two sides are portraying the tax impact on the homeowners quite differently.
CLEAR in 113, the pro-referendum group, points out that if voters approve the plan, the owner of a $300,000 home will pay about $173 a year for District 113’s bond and interest payments — less than the average of $198 paid over the past 10 years.
The group acknowledges that if the referendum fails, that portion of the tax bill will drop to about $15 because the district has recently paid off large amounts of debt.
But Education First is using a higher home value, $600,000, and pegging the cost at about $467 for the next five years when the $25 million coming from district funds is factored into the equation. After that, the hit is about $263 for the remaining 15 years of the bond issue, according to the opposition group.
The district’s financial consultant, Tammie Beckwith Schallmo, says bond and interest payments for the higher-priced home will be about $355 if the referendum passes, and about $32 if it doesn’t.