Passage of school bond proposals ‘defining moment’
Published 10:20 am Thursday, May 7, 2015
Described as a “defining moment” by the school superintendent, voters in the Niles Community Schools district approved a pair of bond proposals that will clear the way for $40 million worth of improvements throughout the aging school system.
“I think this is going to resonate and is going to be a day that we really changed the future of our students and our school district and our community,” said Supt. Mike Lindley. “It’s a good day for Niles.”
Tuesday’s vote was so close that some media outlets reported that one bond had passed, while the other one failed.
Here is how the voting broke down, according to unofficial results that should be confirmed by the end of the week:
• The first proposal, an increase of 2.89 mills, passed 1,948 to 1,873 — a difference of just 75 votes. It will raise approximately $29.7 million and cost the average taxpayer about $12 a month.
• The second proposal, an increase of 1 mill, faired slightly better in the eyes of voters, passing 1,967 to 1,838 — a difference of 129 votes. It will raise about $10.3 million and cost the average taxpayer about $4 a month.
School Board President Greg O’Toole said he is mindful of the near 50-percent split among voters. He theorized that the “no” votes might have come from people who didn’t want to raise taxes, or people who weren’t properly informed about the proposals.
“Some of the areas that didn’t get ‘yes’ votes were more in our remote areas,” he said. “Maybe we didn’t do a good enough job getting information to them.”
The bond proposals will allow the school district to provide upgrades to security, energy efficiency, technology and infrastructure at buildings throughout the district.
It will also allow the school system to close outdated facilities and make significant upgrades and/or additions to those that remain.
James Ellis Elementary will close and its students will be relocated to Howard Elementary, which is located next door. Howard will be renamed Howard-Ellis and additional space will be added to accommodate the extra students.
The district will also close Cedar Lane, which houses alternative education students, and the Westside Administrative Center, which mainly houses administrative staff.
Students at Oak Manor Sixth Grade Center will be relocated to Ring Lardner Middle School, which will be expanded. The alternative and adult education students will be housed at Oak Manor.
Lindley said construction would likely begin next spring and take place in multiple phases. A more defined timeline, he said, would be released in the near future.
However, Lindley did say the district could begin doing some smaller projects on their own sooner, like replacing phone systems and classroom furniture.