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Gower Board Could Fund Renovations Through Referendum

Board will vote on funding plan in December. They also approved the tax levy for 2012-2013.

The Gower School District 62 Board of Education is moving closer to approving an $8.5 million facilities renovation project

The board will vote to place a bond referendum on the March ballot at their next meeting, Superintendent Steve Griesbach said Tuesday.

“This is a big deal for us,” he said.

If voters approve the referendum, Griesbach said they want to invest in the science program at the middle school by upgrading the classroom so students will be able to perform more sophisticated experiments.

Griesbach said he also wants to renovate the gym at Gower West and construct a new gymnasium at Gower Middle School.

“If we can do this, it will improve the fitness of our students,” he said.

 Gower Middle School was built in 1982 and has had little work done to it since, Griesbach said. He said it’s in need of some renovation, including a ceiling replacement and some infrastructure work.

If the bond referendum is approved, Griesbach said he hopes to see work beginning by next summer. He also hopes to bid out the larger projects early so the district can take advantage of low interest rates and low construction costs.

“We want to be able to get the best bang for our buck,” he said.

Those projects, particularly the construction and renovation of the gyms, would start in the late spring of 2013 after the ground has thawed.

“If we stick to these timelines I think this can be accomplished with minimal interruptions to the students,” he said.

However all this is dependent on the bond referendum. Griesbach said he wants to be prudent and know what kind of money the district will have to accomplish the work.

In addition to the renovation plan, the Gower school board approved a tax levy of 4.99 percent, although Griesbach said they expect to receive only about 1.7 percent. The new levy should yield an increase of $223,000 over last year.

“This is how we fund our district. We felt the need to ‘mini-balloon it’ so we can get all we can,” Griesbach said.

The proposed tax levy for 2011-2012 was about $11.8 million, an increase of 7.24 percent over what was extended that year. However, after the actual equalized assessed value and the tax cap were factored in,  the increase was only about 2.5 percent.

Under Illinois' tax cycle, school districts and other taxing bodies must adopt their levies, calling for a specific dollar amount of property taxes, before the final numbers for the equalized assessed value of existing property and new construction have been determined. Because of that, and because of Illinois' tax cap law, the amount a taxing body asks for in its levy is usually not the same as the amount of property tax dollars it receives.

Because the board is asking for an increase less than 5 percent, they do not fall under the Truth in Taxation” law, which would otherwise require a public hearing. The levy will not take effect until 2013.

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