District 34 referendum pushes for updated facilities

Jack Latreille and Sarah Ordway

A referendum for $119 million dedicated to the repair and renovation of all District 34 schools will appear on the March 17, 2020 presidential primary ballot. This $119 million would be largely dedicated to infrastructure repairs at all District 34 schools, a renovation of Springman Middle School, and the introduction of full day Kindergarten according to Dane Delli, District 34 Superintendent. 

If passed, Delli says the referendum would increase property taxes in Glenview by $497.63 for every $10,000.00 (~ 4.98%). Because the debt from the 2000 referendum to open Attea Middle School will finally be paid off, the net increase in property taxes will be only $394.39 for every $10,000.00 annually (~3.94%).

“We really made an effort to reduce the [cost],” Delli explained. “There is some tax sensitivity by people in the community who were not responding well to these numbers.” 

Even though District 34 has spent $40 million in the past 15 years on repairs, Delli said that much of the budget from the referendum would go towards updating infrastructure. The average school in District 34 is 57 years old, and according to Delli, lots of the roofing, heating systems, and fire suppression systems are in need of replacement. In addition, older buildings do not comply with standards established in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are therefore more difficult for students to access.

“You can make repairs to things for a certain period of time, and then you have to replace them,” Delli said. “You can repair a mechanical system on the rooftop of Westbrook for 25 years, but it gets to the point where you need to replace it. That is where we are now.”

Natalie Jachtorowycz, President of the District 34 Board of Education, stressed that another large portion of the budget would go towards building additions onto the primary schools and hiring new staff in order to introduce full-day kindergarten. As 80% of schools across Illinois offer full day Kindergarten, Jachtorowycz emphasized that District 34 needs to keep up other schools in the state and have more time for its youngest students. 

“We work very hard to make sure our students aren’t disadvantaged,” Jachtorowycz stated. “That is something that is constantly on the board’s radar. That guides everything that we do.”

Springman Middle School will receive the most renovations due to its outdated facilities and its lack of space for students, according to Delli. Although every school will receive new furniture and receive general repairs, Springman Middle School will feature a new cafeteria, a new gym, and major infrastructure changes, Delli said. 

“[Springman Middle School] is the one building that accounts for the largest portion of the total amount of money that we are asking for,” Delli emphasized. “There are many improvements that are associated with that, including new science labs and […] reconfiguring spaces throughout the building.”  

Sophomore Stella Khan, a former student of Springman Middle School, agreed that many of the facilities at the school were outdated. Though Khan agreed that the school was in need of repairs and renovations, she felt that the school was still functional. 

“Although [Springman Middle School] is old, it still works,” Khan said. “It serves its purpose of educating kids, but I agree that the school needs to be renovated.”

The original referendum was set at $139 million. However, as District 34 mail survey results of 1,620 respondents found that 61% of respondents were “extremely/ very concerned” with this amount, the price was reduced to its current $119 million. According to Delli, District 34 has been facing a deficit in its operational budget, and most of its facilities have been needing repairs for decades.

“When school districts are faced with [deficits in operational budgets], school districts have to make tough decisions,” Delli explained. “The [District 34 Board of Education] has made the right decision to make sure that the educational programs stay in tact, but at times, that has resulted in deferred maintenance.”

Jachtorowycz says that the district has been taking a more serious look at a potential referendum ever since Delli became superintendent in 2017. They have conducted several studies regarding their infrastructure and space utilization, and they have been relying on their Citizen’s Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC) to better evaluate their finances. One member of the CFAC, Steve Toomey, has been volunteering with District 34 to help them best evaluate the use of their funds 

“The board has been very thoughtful on how to spend this money,” Toomey said. “It has been very conservative [in their demands]. It has gotten good ratings from Moody’s [Financial Analytics]. It is just about being thoughtful about our future.”

The referendum will appear on the ballot on March 17, 2020. Most of all, Delli encouraged voters to learn more about the referendum and become as informed as possible before casting their votes.

“We believe we have done our homework in educating ourselves and educating the public,” Delli stated. “Ultimately, it will be the voting public that decides how important it is.”

To find out more about the District 34 Referendum, visit glenview34.org/building-future.