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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and Answers

On November 6, 2018, registered voters in Maine Township High School District 207 will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot question asking permission to issue bonds to address facility improvements at Maine East, Maine South and Maine West high schools. In an effort to be transparent and answer questions about all aspects of the referendum, the District is collecting questions and providing answers to the most frequent questions. If you have a question that is not listed below, please use this form to submit a question. The District will do its best to provide answers in a timely manner to the most frequently asked questions. Those answers will be posted on this page rather than through individual email responses so that everyone in the community can benefit from the information.

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General Questions

Financial Questions

Architecture and Construction Questions

Education Questions

Referendum Questions

 

General Questions

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What is a Master Facility Plan?

A Master Facility Plan (MFP) is a plan to ensure that the facilities at all three Maine Township High Schools, provide a safe environment, maintain the buildings’ infrastructure and support our vision for teaching and learning for District 207 students today and in the future.

The District’s architects conducted comprehensive building assessments and input sessions with staff, students, Board of Education members and the administrative team to identify and prioritize facility needs and develop a proposal for consideration by voters to improve functionality and modernize all three schools. Wight & Company Architects and ELARA Engineering provided the Master Facility Plan.

 

What is included in the District 207 Master Facility Plan?

The full Master Facility Plan is available for review. Planned improvements at all three schools include:

  • Improving safety and security by constructing new front entrances at each school with secure vestibules to prevent visitors from entering the buildings before being cleared by personnel. Additionally, the proposal also eliminates the need for students to go outside during passing periods by adding hallways or secured walkways.
  • Infrastructure improvements, including replacing outdated plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems to extend the useful life of the existing buildings, reduce costly emergency repairs and improve energy efficiency across the district.
  • Updating learning spaces including classrooms, labs and libraries to leverage instructional technology, enhance current teaching methods and promote collaboration.
  • Improving efficiency for students and staff by clustering academic departments and student services areas.
  • Health and wellness improvements include renovating and relocating physical education spaces like locker and fitness rooms to improve safety, supervision and usability. The pools, which are used during the school day for instruction as well as for athletics, will be updated to meet current codes and regulations.
  • Updating food service and dining areas by replacing 50 year old equipment in the food serving lines. This work will help ease congestion, improve service and create multi-purpose common spaces. The serving line equipment for the most part is original to the buildings.
  • Install fire suppression systems (sprinklers) in the event of a fire.
  • Reconfigure special education spaces to better meet the needs of students.

School-specific improvements include:

Maine East

  •          Create a first-floor, handicapped-accessible hallway to improve traffic flow and access.
  •          Add an elevator to the east section of the building to provide access to the second floor.

Maine South

  • Improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) spaces.
  • Create new performing arts storage to free up space in existing rehearsal rooms for performers

Maine West

  • Construct a new fieldhouse to consolidate athletics/physical education space in one location and provide Maine West students with fieldhouse space already existing at Maine East and Maine South. At Maine West, this also will improve security at after-hours events and create space for other educational programs.
  • Add a Commercial Foods Lab

 

How much space do the three high schools cover?

There is more than 1.5 million square feet of internal space in the three buildings sitting on approximately 206 acres.

 

Why are so many improvements needed now?

As part of the Master Facility Plan, the report included approximately 50 pages outlining the condition of all our mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Most of these vintage systems are original to the building construction and most of these systems have greatly exceeded their recommended useful life

 

Was the decision to seek bond funds through a referendum a decision solely by the Board of Education or have the stakeholders been engaged in the decision?

The District started a process in February of 2018 that included a task force, community meetings, a phone survey and a mailed survey. Based upon all of the information gathered, the task force and administration recommended placing a referendum question on the ballot on November 6.

 

Are all of these improvements necessary?

While the most obvious need is to address infrastructure issues in aging school buildings, Maine 207 believes that all of the proposed upgrades and improvements are necessary to provide a contemporary learning environment comparable to those of neighboring school districts throughout Chicago’s suburbs.

 

Are the improvements and expenditures similar at all schools?

District 207 is planning to invest very similar amounts of the bond proceeds in each high school. The facilities are not identical. One goal of this project would be to create parity between the three buildings. Although the proposed work is not identical, the three schools would have similar academic, athletic and arts spaces when construction was completed.

 

Why did the district wait to ask for money to repair the buildings if they are in such dire need of upgrades?

This is a complex question, however, there are three main factors in why the district has placed a referendum on the ballot now and not earlier.

  • We have make significant investments in our schools. Over the past 11 years, the District has invested $60.4 million in the schools. Unfortunately, approximately $5.5 million per year will not solve a problem that is getting larger each year. The scope of needed repairs is significantly beyond that dollar amount. At that pace of spending, critical systems will continue to fail and need to be replaced at inopportune times.
  • Prior to the Master Facility Plan being developed, the District had a good idea of the scope of the building needs, but not a full picture. By inviting experts in to analyze the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems at each of the three schools, the scope and sequence of the work became very clear.
  • The Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) or “tax cap law” passed in 1994 limits each local unit of government’s ability to access debt. The purpose of the law is to ensure taxpayers have an opportunity to decide through a ballot question whether or not a district should borrow money for facilities or increase taxes for operating expenditures. When the Board adopted a resolution to place the referendum question on the ballot, several members indicated the condition of the schools is one that the voters need to determine. When the Illinois General Assembly implemented property tax caps in Cook County in 1994, legislators included a provision limiting each local unit of government’s ability to access debt to the annual levy for outstanding debt when the tax caps took effect. At that time, District 207 had an annual levy of about $1.6 million. The amount was arbitrary and varied greatly from District to District. The $1.6 million level of annual debt payment is insufficient to fund the facilities work in the Master Plan. If District 207 had a sizable debt in 1994, the District would have been able to continue to generate debt to upgrade and fix our buildings. As the law currently stands, the District must ask the taxpayers to approve a measure to increase our borrowing ability. We believe that we have been fiscally responsible stewards of the taxpayer’s money, and we have stretched mechanical systems in many cases decades longer than their expected life span. We are simply at a point when continuing to operate in this manner is not sustainable.

 

Why not build new schools?

Building three new schools would be extremely expensive as estimates are that each school would cost over $200 million dollars. This would place a greater burden on taxpayers, would exceed the District’s borrowing capacity and would be very difficult to complete as schools need to remain in session.

 

Is enrollment increasing or decreasing and have you done an enrollment study?

District 207 projections indicate enrollment is expected to remain essentially steady through at least 2026. The District is in regular communication with our feeder elementary school districts about enrollment trends since middle school graduation numbers are the best predictor of high school enrollment.

 

When was the last time District 207 passed a bond referendum to upgrade facilities?

The last bond referendum passed by voters in District 207 was in December of 1973.

 

What will happen if the referendum fails?

The infrastructure improvements as part of the referendum will cost $81.8 million alone. If the referendum fails, District 207 will continue what has been done over the past several years – allocate some monies each year toward building maintenance, with the highest priority given to the ares of greatest need. In addition, it will use reserve funds, as needed, when critical systems break/fail and are unable to be repaired/fixed.


Financial Questions

Can this be paid for without asking taxpayers for additional funds?

The largest share of the District’s annual budget is earmarked for educational expenses, including salaries and materials. The annual Operations and Maintenance and Capital Projects budget combined is about $5-$8 million. That is not enough to cover the scope of the work that would be covered through a referendum.  District 207 has invested just over $60 million in the buildings over the past 10 years. This referendum includes up to $45.7 million to this project from reserve funds.

 

Can referendum funds be used for other things, like salaries?

By law, the district can only use referendum funds on building, equipping, altering, repairing and reconstructing new or existing school buildings.

 

Why does the District have reserve funds or fund balance?

The District maintains reserves or fund balance to pay for unexpected expenses including emergency repairs and to stabilize cash flow and avoid short-term borrowing, as tax funds are received only twice a year. The district goal is to have reserves of 50% of the annual budget and the State of Illinois requires at least 25% reserves to maintain the highest financial rating of recognition. There are several reasons why reserves are needed for school districts including that most of the district’s funding comes from local property taxes and those are paid to the district just twice each year.

 

How much money in reserves does the District have?

At the end of the 2017 fiscal year, the District had combined fund balances in the Educational, Operations & Maintenance, Capital Projects, Working Cash and Life Safety funds of $122 million. The $122 million figure is a point in time and this amount fluctuates throughout the school year as bills are paid and revenues are garnered. During the 2017 fiscal year, the District had a low fund balance of $106 million. The minimum fund balance for District 207 should be no less than 50% of expenditures as the district basically receives two main revenue payments each year and must have funds on hand to cover expenses between those payments. With three large high schools, unforeseen events can happen, especially with failing mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. Additionally, having reserves on hand allows the district time to plan if legislation is passed that significantly reduces revenues or significantly increases expenditures, which has been frequently discussed by lawmakers. For the 2017 fiscal year, 50% of expenditures would require a fund balance of $70 million. The referendum includes up to $45.7 million to the project from reserve funds.

 

What is the District’s bond rating?

Maine Township High School District 207 has a Aaa bond rating (Moody’s Investors Service) – the highest rating available and relatively rare among Illinois school districts – which allows us to borrow at the lowest possible rates. This rating reflects the District’s sound financial management.

 

Is any public funding available?

No state or federal funding is available for school building projects at this time, nor have such funds been available for several years. That is not anticipated to change anytime in the near future. The District will continue to research this area and apply for state, federal or others funds that may become available.

 

Can private funding be used for any of these improvements?

A fundraising effort of this magnitude would require monumental resources. Although this may be considered in the future, it is not a viable option at this time.

 

What financial support is provided by Rivers Casino?

Rivers Casino pays taxes much like any other business within the district boundaries. In fact, Rivers Casino is one of the largest taxpayers within the school district. In addition, Rivers Casino donates $30,000 annually for Oakton Community College scholarships. Rivers Casino also has donated $300,000 to create modern food science labs at Maine West High School. By law, all monies donated by Rivers Casino are allocated to Maine West High School.

 

What financial support is provided by O’Hare Airport?

The airport has provided funds for air conditioning and soundproofing at all District buildings to mitigate the impact of noise on students and staff.

 

If this referendum passes, when would I see an impact on my tax bill?

The new taxes will be reflected on 2018 tax bills, which are payable in 2019. However, it is not anticipated that all of the money will be borrowed in the first year and likely the borrowing will be staged over several years if the referendum passes. That means the full tax impact on an individual taxpayer is not likely to occur in the first year.

 

What is the length of the bonds?

The District will issue 20-year bonds. These funds can only be used for the projects specified in the referendum question. When the bonds are paid off, taxes will be adjusted accordingly.

 

Will there be cost oversight if the referendum passes?

All spending from a voter-approved bond measure would be publicly disclosed. Project updates would be presented at board meetings, as well as on the District’s website.

 

What is the maximum amount that District 207 could borrow?

As of June 2017, District 207’s legal bond principal issuance maximum limit is $319 million. The $195 million reflects 61% of our borrowing capacity. When added to the $18 million of current debt outstanding, the total reflects 67% of the District’s borrowing capacity. The bonds would be paid over 20 years. Once the bonds are repaid, the debt service levy (taxes) go away.

 

How will this impact the average homeowner in District 207?

The impact will be determined for each homeowner based upon the assessed value of their property. Based upon recent home value information from Redfin, the average market value of a home in Des Plaines is $245,000 and in Park Ridge it is $384,000. If the ballot question were passed by voters, the impact on the average homeowner in Des Plaines would be $223 per year beginning with the 2018 tax bill, which is payable in 2019. The impact on the average homeowner in Park Ridge would be $350.

 

How will this impact my individual taxes?

The estimated increase on a homeowners total tax bill is 3%. Any homeowner can estimate the individual impact of the referendum by multiplying just the 2016 Maine Township High School District 207 taxes paid on their 2016 tax bill by 12.96%. More information is available.

 

At what interest rate will the money be borrowed at?

District 207 has a Aaa Bond rating (Moody’s Investors Service). This is the highest rating available, which will allow the district to secure the lowest interest rate when the bonds are sold. There is no way to estimate the rate at this time.

 

Will this tax increase affect the elderly citizens that benefit from a property tax freeze?

The Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze holds the assessment of the property. The District is requesting additional funds, which means an increase in all taxes.  

With the feds raising the interest rates, do you foresee any issues or any added costs to the bonds you are proposing?

Maine Township High School District 207 has a Aaa bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service, which means that when the district borrows money it is at the lowest possible rate available at that time when compared to other taxing entities. The plans would be to watch the market and borrow money at times when it is most advantageous to the district to secure a low interest rate. The interest rate used in the cost estimates has a projected increase of 1% over current rates.

 

With all of these new collaboration zones and new resources for students, how will the district be monitoring students in these areas? Will D207 need more personnel in the future?

There is no anticipation that the district will need to increase staffing nor are there any current plans to increase staffing as a result of the implementation of collaborations zones and additional resources.

 

Do the increases in the tariffs on construction products coming from overseas worry you or the planning committee for this project?  

The construction estimate has a 3% annual increase for construction costs. The District is committed to creating a design that stays within budget and has committed to taking any additional costs out of District reserves.


Architecture and Construction Questions

What is a secure entry?

Secure entrances will mean visitors will need to pass through two sets of doors prior to school entry. There will be a vestibule between the doors. Visitors must be allowed into the vestibule and then must wait in the vestibule while their government IDs are checked and visitor badge is issued. Once a visitor is granted clearance, they are admitted into the main building and escorted to their destination. Currently, this is just one set of entrance doors to each of the three high school. Many schools in the area already have a secure entry as a safety and security measure.

 

How will “green” technology and energy efficiency be incorporated into the construction?

District 207 is committed to sustainability and green building standards. Replacing outdated and inefficient heating and cooling systems has already reduced energy costs, and the district diligently pursues energy grants to defray the cost of projects whenever there is an opportunity to do so. The District received over $300,000 from Nicor and ComEd related to the improvement in energy efficiency from the replacements of the boilers at Maine West and Maine South.

 

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines will be considered during design and construction. These practices will ensure that the buildings are energy and water efficient and this may reduce future operating costs.

 

When will more detailed plans and drawings be available?

The project design phase will begin if voters approve a referendum question given the fact there is a large investment of money to complete that phase. If the referendum fails, those plans will not be needed and therefore not created. Architects will work with staff and students to gather additional input and create more detailed plans. It is anticipated this phase will take 12 to 18 months.

 

When will construction begin? How long will the project take?   

The work will be completed in phases, and every effort will be made to ensure that demolition and heavy construction takes place during the summer months when students are out of the buildings.

 

If the referendum is approved by the voters, the district will begin work on the projects immediately. It is estimated that after the design phase (12 to 18 months) the construction/renovation will need to be staged over three to four years. This means the entire project could last for approximately five years. A detailed timeline will be developed and shared if the referendum passes.

 

How will you ensure the safety and minimize disruptions to students, staff, and neighbors?

The District’s top priority will be keeping students, staff, visitors and neighbors safe during construction while maintaining an appropriate learning environment. All workers on site will be required to submit to a background check and will remain within the construction area during school hours. Additional details will be provided if construction plans are developed.


Education Questions

What educational and curricular changes make this project necessary?

Education has evolved.  Learning today is much more collaborative, project-based and involves technology. Students no longer sit in rows and demonstrate proficiency by taking tests. Instead, they work in groups and rely on technology. School buildings and furnishings need to reflect and support this evolution in order to promote academic success and progress. District leaders believe learning spaces should more closely resemble the spaces that District 207 students will encounter when they go on to college and work.

 

Why is collaboration so important in education today?

Employers and colleges are looking for students who can work effectively in teams to create solutions to complex problems. Maine Township High Schools need to provide opportunities for students to learn and apply these skills.

 

What are support services? How many students use them?

Support services are provided by college and career counselors, academic teachers, deans, nurses, social workers and psychologists. Every student uses one or more of these services during his/her time in District 207 and some students utilize them all.

 

What is instructional coaching?

Like most professions, the best teachers are those who are reflective and seek new ways to improve. All Maine 207 teachers have a coaching plan and work with department leaders and coaches to implement new strategies for implementing curriculum and assessment. Ongoing, job-embedded professional development is a fundamental component of the District’s culture and practices. We believe it is one of the keys to student success.

 

What is the AP Challenge Index that has been referenced with relation to Maine Township High Schools?

The Challenge Index measures how many students take Advanced Placement (AP), or similar tests, in comparison to how many graduates there are in the school. An index score of 1.0 is considered a standard that schools should strive to meet, though very few schools meet that standard.

 

As early as the 2015-2016 school year, all three Maine 207 schools had exceeded a Challenge Index of 2.0, meaning that at least twice as many AP exams were completed as there were 2016 graduates. This Challenge Index has continued to rise over the past several years for Maine 207 schools.

 

What is Dual Credit?

Maine 207 provides students with opportunities to earn college credit while they are still in high school through both Advanced Placement classes and dual-credit courses. These courses are offered in conjunction with institutions of higher education.

 

While the referendum will deal with upgrading the schools, what does the district pay to educate its students in comparison with other area high schools?

 

Maine 207 typically utilizes the districts that have schools in the Central Suburban League for comparison purposes. The following shows the most recent per pupil expenditure figures by each of those school districts and Maine Township High School District 207 has the lowest per pupil cost.

Niles 219 (Niles North High School and Niles West High School) $30,257 per student
New Trier 203 (New Trier High School) $25,662.23 per student
Township H.S. District 113 (Deerfield High School and Highland Park High School) $25,519.77 per student
Northfield 225 (Glenbrook North High School and Glenbrook South High School) $23,141.47 per student
CHSD 128 (Libertyville High School and Vernon Hills High School) $23,079.07 per student
Maine District 207 (Maine East High School, Maine South High School and Maine West High School) $19,827.14 per student

 


Referendum Questions

improvements without referendum

Who will get to vote on this funding proposal?

Every registered voter in District 207 will be eligible to vote on the bond measure.

 

Will there be separate referendums in each town or for each school?

There will be one referendum for all three high schools. The same ballot question will be asked in all of the communities that comprise the school district which includes Des Plaines and Park Ridge as well as parts of Glenview, Harwood Heights, Morton Grove, Niles, Norridge, Norwood Park Township and Rosemont. Any resident that lives within the school district boundaries and is registered to vote will have the opportunity to vote on the ballot question. The final result will be based on the combined vote of all Maine 207 communities.

 

How will the referendum impact my home value?

While there are many factors that impact the value of a home, according to a recent article published on marketwatch.com (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-home-buyers-are-willing-to-give-up-to-live-in-a-good-school-district-2018-07-24) home values are closely connected to the quality of the schools. The article reported that “nearly three-quarters of home buyers said that living in a good school district was important in their house hunt.”

 

The article is based upon a recent realtor.com survey that can be found at:

https://www.realtor.com/research/home-buyers-forego-garages-for-school-districts/

 

Where can residents register to vote?

There are many places that residents can register to vote in the November election. To learn more about registering to vote, visit https://www.cookcountyclerk.com/agency/register-vote.