$12-$15 million needed for school building upkeep

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Before the District 777 Board of Education sinks millions of dollars into upgrading the Junior High School, it wants to take a good look at the options as well as ways to finance those options. The auditorium, at left, will stay and get some improvements, but it is the classroom space to the right that poses the bigger issues going forward.

District 777’s Board of Education has developed a new facilities plan that is focused on maintaining and upgrading its current facilities to keep them up and running for the next 20 years.

It includes just over $5 million in architectural, mechanical and electrical work that it sees needing to take place over the next five years on the Northside Elementary, Junior High School and Senior High school buildings. There is another $7.37 million that is necessary within the next five to 10 years with $2.68 in optional work listed.

In all, the work the school board sees as necessary simply to maintain the facilities it has today over the next decade comes to $12.38 million - $15.059 million if the option work is included.

There are no new buildings planned in the facilities plan’s preliminary estimates. However, the school board does continue to discuss the possibility of an addition to the Northside Elementary to accommodate an expanded preschool program.

There are multiple options for financing the work the school board is studying with several options that don’t require it to go to the district voters to raise school district levies.

Last May, District 777 voters resoundingly defeated an $18.7 million building bond levy with 1,354 votes cast against the referendum (67.5 percent) to 651 in favor (32.5 percent.)

That wide margin of the defeat reflected a widespread dissatisfaction with the plan. Those voting against it cited a farm economy, an increase in taxes, moving the fourth grade to the high school, and a plan that seemed to change frequently as it was being developed.

That plan called for building a new wing on the Benson High School to accommodate grades four, five and six. The wing would have also had new classrooms and labs for the district’s science classes...


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