Spot Check: District 36. The Big Ask. $100.6MM. Spring Ballot. In Less than 80 Days.

Last June, residents said Winnetka was all about neighborhood schools. (We covered it here and here.) The School Board said OK, and in October passed the $148.8MM 10-year, multi-phase Educational Master Facilities Plan. Then spent the next two months whittling down expectations and expenses to what they think is a taxpayer-tolerable, referendum-passable $100,600,000. 

 For Phase 1.

"Shall the Board of Education of Winnetka School District Number 36, Cook County, Illinois, improve the sites of, build and equip additions to and alter, repair and equip existing buildings, including, without limitation, constructing safety and security improvements, increasing accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act, replacing electrical, plumbing, mechanical and HVAC systems, complying with the Health/Life Safety Code, renovating classrooms and Resource Centers/Libraries and adding multi-purpose/lunchroom space and gym space, and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $90,600,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?"

The biggest ask in Winnetka's history.

The $100.6MM Shopping List

Of the $100.6MM, the first $10MM are earmarked reserves. The remaining $90.6MM would come from the referendum. And be paid out like this:

According to the consultant, these are "concept numbers based on concept drawings," with contingencies for "market conditions and design decisions." Whew.

Watch for the drill-down if and when the referendum passes. In the meantime, try here for interactive diagrams and long-term costs per school.

And Skokie School...? 

The Airbag.

The district will spend $1.5MM to get it up to speed and keep it going until all renos and additions are done. They'll use it as "swing space" where various 5th/6th and 7th/8th grades will call it home until their Washburne classrooms are done. After that, they're thinking rental, long-term lease, or public space. No takers yet.

And the Number Is...?

The District's created what they ca'll a “tax impact calculator” to help you figure out how much more you'd pay in taxes if the referendum passes. Put your numbers in. Take it for a spin.

Caution: It does not account for the decrease in rates you would have gotten when the current bonds are retired, or increase in rates from the just-passed levy.

What's the Alternative?

The don’t-go-to-the-polls-without-it-one-hundred-point-six-million-dollar-question? They’re working on it. [The promise at 19:05]

Thinking is, if the referendum fails, you'll get a tax cut as current debt is retired. The District will spend what it needs to keep the doors open in the five schools, deferring maintenance and addressing "only the most urgent needs." And just when you've gotten used to those temporary classrooms at Crow Island, you'll likely face Referendum Redux in 2021.

When the District's done crunching numbers for costs and savings, they'll post them here. Soon. Hopefully.

Regardless, redistricting is on. Fall 2020.

What More Will You Want to Know by the Time You Vote?

  • The Tax Calculator gives us the above what we're now paying number. What's the total cost per household for Phase 1?

  • What’s the plan for the rest of the Plan if residents max out their tax tolerance before Phase 3?

  • If the demographic and economic projections are wrong, how flexible is the 4-school model? How viable is bringing the K-3 model back on-line? [1:39:05]

  • With the current economic and demographic uncertainty, why now?

  • 2028 is a long way off. What if the stuff that got them here –'transitions are bad' and 'collaborative space-is-good' – doesn't work when they get there? Any plan for a mid-course review and reboot?

  • Would the Board consider reducing its future levy requests, or at least not taxing to the max, if there were to be operational savings from Phase 1?

Mandate Meet Skin-in-the-Game

They want it, you’ve got it. There’s no sitting this one out. You've got three chances to vote. And not one excuse not to.

Right now – Vote by mailApply on line, they'll mail you your ballot, fill it out, send it back. Done.

March 18th – first day of early voting. Your best bet is Centennial Ice Rink in Wilmette.

April 2nd – Hey! Where’s my polling place Moved? Not sure you’re registered at your new address? Check here.

BTW, if you’re just hearing about this now, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. And just a few short weeks. Let the cramming begin!

Referendum or not, this is an off year. Only 5% of Winnetka goes to the polls in off years. The biggest ask in Winnetka's history, decided by 5% of the voters? Don't let that be on your watch. Vote.

Next School Board Meeting - Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019 - 7:15 p.m. Hubbard Woods Auditorium.

Sign in, speak up.

Pass the Word – and this Spot Check – to every Winnetka voter you know.