School millage vote Monday
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Forty-five people have already cast ballots in Monday's Niles Community Schools Building and Site Improvement Fund millage vote.
The 45 votes are absentee votes, which is quite high for such an election in the school district, said Doug Law, Niles Community Schools superintendent.
Election day is Monday. Voters will decide whether to approve a 1 mill levy for five years to pay for building and site improvements of the school district's aging buildings, Law said.
The school district's youngest building is 40 years old, he said.
Voters can cast ballots at Westside School Administration Building, Niles High School and Howard School. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday.
Law said he continues to get positive comments about the millage, which will be the district's first since the 1990 bond issue.
He thinks approval of the millage is crucial to avoid having to take money away from educational programs to maintain school district buildings.
For a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000 the mill would cost $50 a year, Law said. He said taxes from the 1990 bond issue have steadily decreased over the last 10 years and will be removed completely in two years time.
Although the school district is not allowed to run campaigns before the election, a group of citizens who are members of the school district's Strategic Planning Committee have worked to collect the names of 500 "yes" voters.
The committee is a diverse, citizen-based, group established to define the needs and future goals of the school district, Law said. Chairs of the millage vote effort were Bob Becksfort, Dana Daniels, Tom Rattenbury, Margaret Phares and Bob Schuelke.
Approval of the millage, which Law said earlier this month has become an extremely important part of school district's economic puzzle, would allow the school district to make several improvements, like replacing exterior doors that currently represent a security risk to students and faculty, roof repairs at all of the school district's buildings, upgrading electrical services at the high school to support computer technology, replacing flooring in classrooms where the tile is substandard and improving the Ring Lardner football field for middle school student games.
If the millage is approved, the school district will use an architect to do a study on the buildings and determine what options the school district has in the future.
Building and site improvement funds are strictly regulated by state law to pay for very specific building and site improvements and cannot be used for routine maintenance, employee benefits or salaries, Law said.
He thinks the millage is a good short term investment in the school district.