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D158 discusses spending options for $39.4M grant

Consolidated School District 158 taxpayers and high school students could prove the biggest winners of an unexpected grant of more than $39 million.

The Board of Education is discussing three similar allocation options for the $39.4 million grant from the Illinois Capital Development Board.

The options could keep the tax levy flat for a period of time, as well as pay for millions of dollars worth of improvements at Huntley High School and cover future debt payments at Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills.

“All three options are very similar and will have an immediate impact to the taxpayers,” said Mark Altmayer, chief financial officer. “Once the grant has been received and final decisions have been made as to how much is needed for the high school project, additional decisions can be made on the abatement of debt side.”

The grant covers more than $80 million worth of projects — which included improvements at the district’s Square Barn Road Campus in Algonquin, as well as Marlowe — that were completed in 2005 and funded through other means.

The money was supposed to be paid out for constructions costs after the application was approved in 2003. The state stopped funding the program in 2002, but the application process still moved forward.

The funding unexpectedly came this year after the state began funding those applications approved in 2003, according to district officials.

Huntley High has seen continued enrollment growth over the last several years. Student population is expected to reach 3,000 students in the next five years, according to district number crunchers.

“With all options, it provides the district the necessary future funding for much needed high school improvements,” Altmayer said. “It also enables the district to abate future debt, reducing the amount of bonds and interest that would have otherwise been levied to the taxpayers.”

All options under consideration include using a portion of the funding for high school improvements. The decision that has to be made is whether the Board of Education wants to keep property tax rates flat for two years or flatten the bond and interest portion of the taxpayers’ bill.

Keeping property taxes flat would use up more of the grant funding at one time, Altmayer said, whereas flattening the bond and interest portion of the tax bill would spread it out over time.

“No matter what option, it is a huge victory for the community compared to what we would have been facing had we not received the money,” Altmayer said. “It’s all about how we want to use it.”

The school board in December voted to keep the tax levy flat by abating $2.4 million in property taxes. The district requested more than $62 million, a 1.4 percent increase compared to last year. But no new tax dollars will come from the community other than from new construction, according to district officials.

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