How was this plan developed, and what is included?
Members of the community came together in 2019 to collaborate on a plan for the future of our District 45 schools. This 10-Year Master Facility Plan focused on meeting these challenges in the most fiscally responsible way possible. Together, the community developed a path forward that aligned with the district’s strategic plan. This plan will:
- Give Our Early Learners the Best Possible Foundation
- Keep Our Children Safe and Secure
- Prepare All Our Students to Successfully Navigate a Dynamic World
The plan centers on building a new Early Childhood Center and moving all early childhood programming to this new building. This will increase instructional time and academic performance for our students and lead to operational savings due to consolidation. It will also free up space at our elementary schools to pursue additional improvements.
Using this additional space, we will then be able to make upgrades to all our schools. We will implement full-day kindergarten, which will increase academic and social emotional learning for our early learners and provide childcare savings for parents. We will make necessary safety and security upgrades at all schools, including secure entrances, alarms, and secure doors, as well as increasing parking and improving drop-off zones. We will continue to upgrade our technology to broaden our student learning experience and enhance our curriculum. And we will provide science labs and music rooms, which includes specific instructional space and enhanced curriculum in science, technology, and math as well as optimized spaces and increased opportunities for children in band, choir, orchestra, and music.
This will be a significant refresh for our district, removing the barriers staff currently faces as they work to implement our curriculum. It will upgrade all of our buildings, modernize all our classrooms, and improve the educational experience for all our families.
Why is the referendum necessary?
District 45’s fiscal responsibility has allowed us to maintain and upgrade district buildings over the past three decades without having to go to the public for a referendum. However, as educational needs evolve and state and federal mandates increase, we are reaching the end of our ability to meet our needs without a referendum. We’ve stretched every dollar possible. Maintaining one of the lowest per-pupil funding rates in DuPage County, we are receiving only 78% of the resources needed to meet educational expectations, according to the state’s adequacy target.
We don’t have the room necessary to comply with state requirements for early childhood education, though we’re doing the best we can. Parents are clamoring for full day kindergarten, but we don’t currently have space. We must ensure a safer environment for students and teachers, but that will take resources we don’t currently have. As we seek to improve our students’ academic performance, we need resources to continue upgrading technology and to invest in dedicated science labs and more opportunities for children in band, music, choir and orchestra. And our infrastructure is aging, with the average building 60 years old.
How old are our school buildings?
- Ardmore Elementary School: Built in 1911
- Jackson Middle School: Built in 1952
- North Elementary School: Built in 1957
- Schafer Elementary School: Built in 1958
- York Center Elementary School: Built in 1958
- Jefferson Middle School: Built in 1962
- Stevenson School: Built in 1971
- Westmore Elementary School: Built in 1988
How will the referendum impact my taxes?
To achieve the needed improvements, District 45 has placed a referendum on the ballot in the upcoming March 17th election. Combined with the district’s budget, this $30 million referendum will fund the community-driven Master Facility Plan on a 10-year timeline with an approximate tax impact of $170/year for the average homeowner.
Are reserves and current district funds being used to fund these projects?
Yes. The total cost of the 10-Year Master Facility Plan is $58.8 million. The district is funding a significant portion of the plan over the next 10 years using district funds, further proving our fiscal conservatism. These funds, combined with the $30 million from the referendum, will fund the Master Facility Plan.
District 45 is fiscally responsible. We focus our spending on needs, not wants, being practical in efforts to modernize our classrooms. We’ve worked to balance our budget, reducing spending by a million dollars two years ago and instituting zero-based budgeting to closely inspect our spending every year. We use our own skilled workers as much as possible to avoid contracting work out and we are an energy star district, resulting in significant savings for taxpayers. Our board is fiscally conservative, maintaining a conservative fund balance and minimizing administrative spending to ensure the public’s tax dollars are being spent on the students. As a result, District 45 has lowered its tax rate each of the past four years, a drop of nearly 12% from 2015 to 2018.
Will bonds approved by referendum be used to cover salaries and benefits?
No. Bonds will only be used to fund needed infrastructure projects. By law, these funds must only be used for that purpose because referendum language is legally binding. There is a narrow exception within the law that would allow a very small amount to be spent on things related to salaries and benefits, but the district does not believe that to be a wise course of action. We will continue to fund salaries and benefits out of our standard operating budget. Any funds approved by the community for their schools will be 100% invested in improving our school infrastructure.
If the referendum is approved, when will construction begin? What is the estimated completion date?
After a successful referendum on March 17, 2020, the district would immediately begin working with its architect and engineers to develop detailed project plans and drawings. Construction would likely begin in the late spring of 2021 and would happen in phases over several years. The new Early Childhood Center and Full Day Kindergarten renovations & additions are targeted to be completed by the start of the 2022 school year, and classroom renovations are targeted to be completed by the start of the 2022 school year. Every effort will be made to complete construction during the summer in a way that minimizes the impact while students are in attendance.