The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
As the coming election in April fast approaches, the good folks at Illini West are out in force trying to gin up support for the latest incarnation of their school construction bond referendum. This latest effort comes on top of their proposed property rate tax increases of 6.79% in the corporate and special purpose taxes over the previous year as indicated in public notice published in the Hancock Journal Pilot December 12, 2012.
The Board of Illini West will point out that they have made some cuts to the original proposal. They will harp incessantly that the voters just don't understand how bad they need a new building. (Hancock Journal Pilot 12-26-12). They will try to pressure Carthage voters to turn out in favor or lose the school to a location 14 miles north of town. (Mayor Nightingale, Hancock Journal Pilot, 03-06-13). They will say we need to spend the money sooner than later (Tracy Anders, Hancock Journal Pilot). "After the referendum, if it passes, and after we have the state money in hand, when we let out bids, and know exactly how much it will cost, THEN (emphasis added) we will work with that list to see where cuts are needed." (Kim Schilson, Hancock Journal Pilot). "With inflation, every time it fails, it costs us another half million." (RD Trout, Hancock Journal Pilot).
There you have some of the arguments in favor of passing this bond. Let's look at them one at a time:
1. The Board of Illini West will point out that they have made some cuts to the original proposal. "24 acres from 40 acres...it can be anything inbetween" - Tracy Anders, Hancock Journal Pilot. In other words Illini won't commit to the exact size of the lot. Tracy talks about cutting it, but he doesn't actually promise to cut it.
2. They will constantly hammer on how the voters just don't understand how bad they need the new building. No one is arguing that they don't need a building. That is apparent to any one who has been to a graduation, prom preview, or other event. The issue is the size and scope of the project they are proposing. I would argue that the Illini West Board is the one that needs to understand that the money just isn't there in this economy for a $25,000,000.00 school.
3. They are now trying in desperation to flame the North South conflict by inciting the Carthage voters to turnout in favor of the new school or lose it in the future to some undisclosed location, "14 miles north of Carthage" - Mayor Nightingale, Hancock Journal Pilot, 03-06-13. Let's be honest people, if location is the single deciding issue, no one North would vote for the Carthage location, and no one in Carthage would vote for Mayor Nightingale's mysterious 14 mile location. During the era of Hancock Central, the Carthage population was sufficient to strong arm any opposition from the former schools in the surrounding villages that were absorbed. That is not the case anymore, as La Harpe and Dallas City are pretty much equal in population to Carthage. Thus, we need to work together and put aside the tactics and provincial attitudes that only lead to more divisiveness, distrust, and agitation. What is the Illini Board of Education doing to heal this division?
4. My favorite, Ms. Schilson's statement about passing the bond, then seeing what they will cut, reminds me of Nancy Pelosi's famous statement during the Obama Care debate, "We have to pass the bill to see what's in the bill." Obviously, if the voters pass the bond, and the architects and consultants have done their job well, nothing will have to be cut.
5. Mr. Trout's statement to the effect that "With inflation, every time it fails, it costs us another half million." This is a naive and simplistic point of view that is again an effort to intimidate and agitate a voter in favor of the bond. A building bond is exactly like a mortgage on a house. It has interest that must be paid to the bond holder. So while inflation might have some cost to the district, by not passing the bond, Illini avoids paying the interest to the bond holder too. Thus, possible inflation costs would be offset by not having interest expense.
Statements have also been made that construction would not begin until the state funds are available. If the voters pass the referendum, Illini will have the ability to tap the bond money at any time. Illini's board says they won't build without the state money, but many of them are the same ones that said during the convergence meetings that a new school would be built in a central location, and how did that turn out? If Mr. Trout is not going to build until the state money comes through, then his issue about the delay by not passing the bond is irrelevant. The taxpayers could very easily end up with 40 acres, graded, surveyed, saddled with a huge building bond, and no school. The State of Illinois is funding its share of the project via CDB bonds. The last time Illinois offered CDB bonds for sale, there were no bidders due to the recent downgrade of Illinois credit rating. In short, relying on Springfield is far from a sure thing.
In conclusion, the time is simply not right for a $9,000,000.00, $8,000,000.00 or even a $7,000,000.00 building bond burden to be placed upon the taxpayers of the district. Illini's board has not demonstrated any understanding of the concerns of the community at large. In fact they have exhibited quite the opposite, cynically attempting to pit constituencies against each other, failure to engage the community as a whole, and a total lack of willingness to engage the community as a whole, or build a true consensus through real compromise and effort to reduce the burden to the taxpayers.
Mike and Tina Lionberger
You have probably seen or heard the phrase "timing is everything" in many places and at many times. There is a great deal of truth in that statement. Timing is essential when dealing with people. Timing is important in cooking. Timing is critical to medicine. Timing can make a difference when it comes to financing. That is why the timing for supporting the Illini West High School building referendum is now.
When it comes to financing our schools, we must take advantage of timing when it works in our favor. As voters in the Illini West High School District, we have the opportunity to take advantage of the state paying for 68% of the total cost of the new high school building estimated at $26,000,000. That leaves Illini West with approximately $8,000,000 in local funding. Local tax increase is approximately 47 cents per $100 assessed valuation. Compare this to the Mendon School District who will seek an 80 cents tax increase just to finance renovations (not a new school), and the Nauvoo-Colusa School District who is seeking a 55 cents tax increase just to cover cash flow through June 30, 2013. By acting now, the new Illini West High School, at the proposed site, will be less expensive to build, less expensive to maintain and operate as well as less expensive to transport students to and from the facility.
Most importantly, we must seize this opportunity now, because it is right for kids. On September 25, 2012, the City of Carthage passed a resolution in support of this referendum. We recognized the need for a new state-of-the-art high school building, which will enhance our academic programs and help our students be competitive, increase the supportive technology needed for an ever-changing world, and give our children the safe learning environment that they deserve. This referendum is not only on a school building it is about our future. The decision to vote "yes" is in the best interest of the students, the best interest of the tax payers, and the best interest of the future educational needs of our communities.
I encourage our voters to support this referendum!
James R. Nightingale, Mayor
City of Carthage