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The District 113 Board of Education unanimously voted on Monday to seek an $89 Million referendum from the community to help finance significant facility and educational improvements at Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools. Now District 113 residents will vote on the referendum item during the April 9, 2013 consolidated election.
“I was elected by the communities to represent all stakeholders on the District 113 Board of Education. I have and will continue to take that obligation very seriously and ensure that my decisions are carefully researched and are most importantly fiscally responsible,” Bonnie Shlensky, BOE member, said.
“I support completion of the phase one projects because it is essential to continue providing educational excellence to our students and members of our communities for many years which is ultimately what I think the community wants and more importantly what our students deserve.”
After more than 18-months of work, the Board adopted a Long Range Facility Master Plan for DHS and HPHS in December that detailed a lengthy list of upgrades needed at both high schools. Then a Steering Committee --- comprised of community members --- prioritized that list and recommended projects to be implemented first.     
“I have personally spent several hundred hours on this process,” Marjie Sandlow, BOE member commented. “But I am just one person. Over 100 community members were involved and so, after 18 months, the District has produced a plan that was created by the community and should be supported by the community.”
The $89 M referendum will finance phase one projects identified as top priorities by the Master Plan Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was made up of community members with substantial architecture, construction, and finance experience. They oversaw the architect’s entire design phase providing feedback along the way.
The Steering Committee proposed a first phase of projects estimated to cost $120.4 M. They tasked the District architecture firm Perkins + Will and the construction management firm Gilbane to reduce that cost through value engineering by approximately 5 percent totaling $6.4 M, which would lower the overall cost to $114 M.
Phase one projects include: $47.8 M in infrastructure work at DHS and HPHS (Mechanical, plumbing, fire protection, electrical, lighting, technology, security, windows, ADA); $26.1 M for repurposing the 100 year old B building at HPHS
and reconstructing the 100 year old C and C Annex buildings at HPHS; $19.6 M for new pools at DHS and HPHS; $21.2 M for new multi-purpose gyms at DHS and HPHS; $3.8 M for renovation of the library and media center at DHS; $1.9 M for security enhancements at DHS and HPHS and ADA adaption of PE at DHS.
The Board has decided to commit $25 M from its current budgets to help finance the phase one projects in addition to the $89 M referendum.
“We are proposing to our community and taxpayers that this project be financed through an $89 M bond issue, which would be repaid over a 20 or 25 year time frame, and the interim use of $25 M in District 113 fund balances, which are to be rebuilt over the next five years,” Michael Smith, BOE member, explained. “This Board is making a statement to our community that we are prepared to work even more diligently to contain expenses and rebuild these fund balances in the next five years and thereby issue a bond with the lowest possible principal and interest payments.”
If the District 113 community approves the $89 M referendum bond in April, to be paid off over 20 years, it is estimated to cost a homeowner with a market value of $300,000, $47 more in levy year 2013 compared to 2012, totaling $173. District 113 paid off a significant amount of its debt service this year. If District 113’s referendum in April does not pass, homeowners will see a drop in their bond and interest taxes in 2014. If the referendum does not pass, the estimated 2014 debt service tax bill for a homeowner with a market value of $300,000 is $15, compared to a $173 tax bill if it does pass. Calculating a 10 year average (2003-2012), a homeowner with a market value of $300,000 has paid $198 annually for District 113 bond and interest.  
Board of Education members all stated on Monday why they voted in favor of the referendum and the financing it provides to improve Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools.
“The Long Range Facility Master Plan developed by Perkins + Will that the Board recently accepted and endorsed is on point and when fully implemented will bring our facilities into the 21st century, which is long overdue,” David Small, BOE member, said. “This will help us attract new families to our community in order to maintain the vibrancy that is so very important to our well-being and economic success and opportunity.”