WHEATON – Due to a laundry list of capital improvement needs and a $1.3 million shortfall in next year's budget, Community Unit School District 200 is expected to issue $10 million in bonds at the end of the month and to change the way it saves money for future projects.
Both topics were discussed at a Board of Education meeting Wednesday.
The board is anticipated to issue the bonds at a special meeting Feb. 26, alongside a commitment to refinance its debt over the next several years.
Board and finance committee member Jim Mathieson said it is unfortunate the district has to issue bonds to pay for the $10 million in critical projects. However, he said, the need for the improvements is immediate and District 200 doesn't have the funds to pay for them.
"The realities we have to face as a community, or a taxpayer, or whatever you want to say, is that we will always have debt in the district," he said. "And if it isn't building a new building, it's when the buildings get old and start deteriorating and you have to fix them."
He said the bonds are a reflection of aging buildings, not mismanagement of taxpayer money.
Board President Barbara Intihar said she believes the district has been very frugal the last several years.
"Because our buildings are old and ongoing, by issuing bonds, to my mind, it allows the cost of that building maintenance to be spread across the people who will use those buildings in the future," said board member Rosemary Swanson.
To alleviate the burden of the nearly $80 million in further projects the district has identified for the coming years and create a more stable funding source, the board will consider allowing the district to reserve excess money in its fund balance to put into the operations fund for future projects.
The board has a policy of maintaining at least a 25 percent fund balance to ensure financial stability, which was a major factor in its recent credit rating increase from Standard and Poors, according to District 200 Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Bill Farley. The district is now listed as AA- positive instead of AA- stable. The changes to be considered will not effect this policy.
Superintendent Brian Harris said the board will consider the change at its March board meeting and vote in April.