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Schools tackle funding, building questions

 
ANDREW TURNER
Staff Writer
Posted on 2/18/2016, 12:17 PM

Harrisburg School District #3 is updated on its high school gym construction, cell phones and staff appointments.

During the school board's regular monthly board meeting Wednesday in the Media Center of the Harrisburg Middle School, Superintendent Mike Gauch updated everyone on the status of the QSCB bond submitted for at the end of January.

In December the board held a special meeting to approve the submission of the new Qualified School Construction Bond that would save the school district $7 million on the new high school.

"There were several people that weren't against the new school but were against how we were going to fund it," Gauch said during the December meeting.

Officials in 2014, secured $15 million in bonds to start the renovation project at the Harrisburg High School. With the interest, over the course of 30 years the school would pay back those bonds at nearly $24 million, $9 million above the project's cost

The main issues that arose, at that time, were arguments over the length of the payback period of 30 years — too long — and that the district's pledged sales tax was too close to the allotted 80 percent.

The new bonds will give them $17 million to spend on the project leaving them with only that money to repay. Saving the school district $7 million. It would all shorten the time for pay back by five years.

Unfortunately the school district was unable to secure the QSCB bonds to assist with the gym's construction.

Gauch says that there was close to $1 billion on the table, $500 million went to Chicago schools, then there was $495 million that went to other schools in the state. Current tax rates were figured in so it greatly affected the outcome of the monies allotted.

Sixteen of the 29 schools funded were out of Cook County and six of those schools were awarded more than 50 percent of those bonds.

Only one school south of Springfield received and money and was awarded $2 million.

"I asked why were some schools awarded $50 million and not a lower amount and was told that, 'there were some bigger projects that needed to get done,' I wasn't happy with the outcome," Gauch said.

An update was given as to the progress of the construction of the gym itself. The concrete for the floor has been poured. The concrete will need to cure so there will be little to no activity at the property before early April.

The delay is normal and the board was advised to not be alarmed at the lull in activity.

Bricks will be available in April as the school is next in line to procure the needed material to start construction on the walls of the new gymnasium.

Additional meeting discussion took place over the use of contract cellphones among employees. The board discontinued the use of the cellphone contracts at the end of June, which should save the school district about $11,000.

An extension to the superintendents' contract for two more years was proposed and passed without a salary increase, at Gauch's request, which was commended by several of the board members.

An overabundance of work, that is custom at the end of a school year, brought discussion about needs within the Guidance department. Scott Dewar requested that they employ a person to assist with the extra work consisting of registering new students and paperwork involved in putting together transcripts for graduating students.

A motion was passed to allow a person to work a few days a week in the guidance office to assist with the extra work load but will only stay until the end of the year.