On Nov. 6, those who live within Minooka School District 201 will vote for the second time this year on a referendum to raise money for construction – one the district has said is because of overcrowded schools.
On March 6, the majority of votes within the district were against the referendum, which included a new intermediate school and a new elementary school as well as additions to two existing elementary schools. The Nov. 6 ballot will propose a $50 million referendum for the intermediate school only, which, if passed, will be built in Shorewood off Seil Road.
Superintendent Kris Monn talked about how difficult it was to get information to everyone, not only the families in the district, at the September board meeting. He arranged informational nights, one Oct. 9 and another at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Minooka Intermediate School.
The main issue on the minds of residents has been taxes. When structuring the debt, Monn said they assumed a district valuation growth rate of 5 percent. In the past 20 years, the district has been over 7 percent, and the past three to four years, the district has been over 6.5 percent. At a growth rate of 5 percent, the district would be able to keep the tax rate stable.
“We do not project any tax rate increase due to this referendum because we are targeting a stable tax rate, but if growth is less than our projection of 5 percent, the tax rate would rise slightly as indicated,” Monn said.
Monn said there are too many variables to be exact, but from what he has seen, for every 1 percent below 5 percent growth in the district’s equalized assessed value, that tax rate would increase by 1 cent, equaling $6 more a year for a home valued at $200,000.
In response to where the other bond debt originated, Monn said there were bonds issued in 1998 for additions to Minooka Junior High School; in 2003 for Aux Sable and Walnut Trails elementary schools; and in 2008 by a referendum, which founded Jones Elementary, Minooka Intermediate School and an addition to Minooka Elementary School.
Monn joined the district in 2015 and said the district since then has made the bond payments on time each year.
In 2017, because of state funding uncertainty and a potential statewide property tax freeze, the district issued working cash bonds to replenish reserves and give the district flexibility in the event state funding uncertainty continued. Monn said that was a four-year payback.
John Krenkel, an advocate for the “no” side of the referendum, feels the district has displayed bad financial management. He also worries that the area’s home values could decline as a result of the referendum. But Krenkel said his main frustration lies in why the district has not directed extra tax money toward the debt.
Emily Conquest, co-chairwoman of the Min201 Building for a Future Illinois registered campaign committee, is for the referendum and found through board documents the district recently received financial recognition from the state.
The push for this referendum is because of the increase in class sizes. The fifth- and sixth-grade classes are the largest in the district with 533 and 560. In 2011-12, those cohorts were 420 and 424 students, respectively. Both MIS and Minooka Junior High School are at capacity.
MJHS Principal Sarah Massey said officials have looked into early or late lunch periods and opening part of an adjacent gym for lunch space. The school already staggers class dismissal times from the different courses and at the end of the day, but she fears when that class comes in it will be tough.
Massey said she fears the high-quality teachers the district has will leave because of the large class sizes, as some have more than 30 students. Some teachers do not have class space, so they use a cart to come into a classroom, and some rooms have added tables in the back for students instead of a desk.
Finkelstein said the buildings are over capacity without any growth, and the discomfort and inconvenience on the students will not just go away. For information on the upcoming referendum, visit min201.org.