CUSD 200 new Early Learning Center without taxpayer approval

Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD 200 is now planning to build a new early Learning Center (ELC) as an addition to Monroe Middle school and they plan to borrow the money to pay for it, without asking the community for permission via a referendum. They claim they can do this because the money will be paid back with existing funds – no new taxes.  Initially, they thought a “new building” required a referendum and were looking for a way to avoid that.  Now, they realized that if it is paid for with debt certificates a referendum is not required.  (Hmmm…)

 

September 15, 2017, CUSD 200 e-mail newsletter contained the following:

Board Narrows Down Early Learning Solution and Financing Option 
At their meeting, the Board reviewed an option to construct an addition at Monroe Middle School as a solution to our early learning facility needs. This option was one of 
nine possible scenarios the Board has reviewed following the April 4 Referendum Plan. The Board’s Facilities and Finance Committees ultimately recommended this intergovernmental plan as it allows the District to retain the current Jefferson as an asset, would not require a tax increase and will be paid for out of current and future operational dollars.

How will this option work? Doesn’t the park district own the property next to Monroe?
Through an intergovernmental land swap agreement with the Wheaton Park District, the school district would swap the vacant land (ball fields) immediately south of the current Jefferson property with a portion of the park district’s Graf Park that is immediately east of Monroe Middle School. The early learning center addition would be constructed on the current Graf Park property and would be connected to Monroe Middle School.

How will the Board pay for the early learning center addition?
The Board is reviewing an option to pay for the addition through fund balance (savings) and 
debt certificates. Debt certificates provide a way to borrow for improvements that allow for debt payments to come from the existing operational budget, not through a tax increase.This option allows the Board to access funds to complete the project without increasing taxes. The Board will also consider a private fund-raising campaign to potentially offset a portion of the building cost.

What does the new design look like?
A preliminary concept of the new building can be found 
here. The Board’s Facilities Committee will continue working with our architects and construction manager to refine the design and cost estimate of the project. As part of the presentation, the Board received a projected timeline for this option that projects groundbreaking Summer 2018 and opening to students for the 2019-20 School Year.

Currently, the District provides early learning and special education services to students ages 3-4 at Jefferson, Madison, Whittier and Johnson. To learn more about our early learning program and the need for a facility solution, watch this video.

ELC in the news

My Suburban published a related article on 9/20/2017:
mysuburbanlife.com/lists/2017/09/20/…

History / Cost

elc estimates2017

In 2013 I (Jan Shaw) ran for school board and posted information on my web page along with the first three lines in the above chart.  This blog is based on that blog with updated info.  For the 2017 estimates, I could not find construction cost broken out from total cost (demolition of old building, landscaping, and furniture assumed to be $2.2M – same as 2013 referendum numbers).  The data for the last line came from the board packet attached to the Sep. 13, 2017 board meeting.  At that meeting they discussed leaving the 2 Head  Start classes where they are and reducing the new ELC by 2 classrooms.

 

From “Janshaw200″  2013 post:

CUSD 200 has enough money in its building fund to renovate or build an appropriate new pre-school – without a referendum. Please vote NO on April 9,

  • According to RSMeans the average price for building a school in the Chicago area is around $200/ft2. (reference – 2017 link no longer works)
  • 59,000 square feet at $200/square-foot is just under $12 million.
  • Note: the in the current Jefferson 12 classrooms are used for classes and one for specialist.  In the proposed one there are rooms for specialist in addition to the classrooms.
  • Currently, CUSD 200 uses 14 classrooms for pre-k (12 at Jefferson, 2 at other schools). The older estimate increases that to 18 classrooms, a 28% increase. The current proposal is 20 classrooms that is a 42% increase.
  • Why is CUSD 200 looking at something so big and so expensive ($260/ft2)?
  • According to the Turner Building Cost Index, construction costs are not up since 2008.
  • In May 2012 the state of Illinois issued a check to CUSD 200 for $14.46 million as a capital improvement grant.

 

The current Turner Building Cost index is available at turnerconstruction.com/cost-index

If we assume the 2008 estimate was a good one $234/ft2 what would one expect the price to be for each of the dates in the above chart?  (The index is construction inflations since 1967)

elc inflation v estimate

Since the district is not planning to demolish the existing Jefferson building, my estimate for construction cost may be low.  I understand Jim Mathieson questioned why the building costs so much. Based on the above chart,  he has good reason for questioning it.

I also question the wisdom of building a new building rather than renovating the existing one with a small addition since the taxpayers have said “NO” twice.

 

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