WHEATON – Wheaton resident Jan Shaw has agreed to dismiss her lawsuit against Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 following the board's decision to have voters decide in November whether a new early learning center should be built on the site of the current Jefferson Early Childhood Center in Wheaton.
On Sept. 13, Shaw and the district jointly agreed to a stipulation for voluntary dismissal.
"While the defendant (D200) has not admitted or denied any of the allegations of the verified complaint, they have by their actions done what the complaint requested the court mandate," Shaw said in a statement on her website, dupagewatchdog.org. "The district is submitting the question to the voters via referendum rather than proceeding without a successful referendum. We must ALL be willing to accept the voters’ decision."
She added that "the school district needs to be forthcoming about the cost of the proposed new building and how they plan to afford it without increasing taxes, increasing debt (future taxes) or cutting programs for the students while still maintaining all other facilities."
At their Aug. 20 meeting, Board of Education members unanimously approved authorizing a question on the Nov. 6 ballot to build and equip the new building without levying a separate special property tax to finance the costs. The action came after Shaw filed a lawsuit Aug. 6 against the district in response to a proposal to issue lease certificates that would help pay for the proposed new center.
In her suit, Shaw alleged that "Illinois law requires that when a school district desires to build a new school building or to borrow money for that purpose, it must first obtain voter approval to do so, through the referendum process."
Along with putting the referendum on the ballot, board members also voted to terminate a lease agreement. Lease certificates provide a way to borrow for improvements that allows for debt payments to come from the district's existing operational budget, not through a tax increase.
The suit had asked a judge to prevent District 200 from financing the project using lease certificates until the question had been submitted to voters in a referendum. The district has contended the certificates would not require voter approval.
Superintendent Jeff Schuler previously said the district plans to follow that same funding mechanism should the referendum pass.
Voters in April 2017 voted down a referendum that would have paid for a new $16.6 million facility at the Jefferson site. The district wanted to issue $132.5 million in bonds to help finance needed repairs, renovations and upgrades to 19 of its 20 schools.
Prior to that vote, voters in 2013 rejected a $17.6 million plan for a new center. Needs at the building, which was built in 1958 as an elementary school, include a secured entry, sufficient classroom and office space, and wheelchair accessibility.
Following the April 2017 referendum, the district reduced the building's scope and cost in response to community feedback.
The district is now proposing a 42,044-square-foot building – in comparison to the 45,300-square-foot building proposed in April 2017 – and bids for construction of the new building recently came in at $15,024,846, which is about $500,000 under budget.
Jefferson serves students with special needs as required by state and federal law. About two-thirds of Jefferson students have some type of special need or disability, and one-third of students are typically developing students who pay tuition to attend the school.