Voters living in the Rockridge School District will decide on Tuesday whether to issue $15 million in bonds to build a new, single elementary school.
The new elementary school would be in Edgington, while schools in Andalusia, Illinois City and Taylor Ridge would be closed.
The proposed school would be built on the southern edge of the main Rockridge campus that already includes the high school and junior high school. It could handle up to 515 students, from preschool to fifth grade, with room for growth.
Supporters of the proposal, including a group called Rockridge Forward, along with Rockridge school superintendent Chester Lien, say the new building would include secured entrances to control visitors' entry, hardened areas for extreme weather and dedicated space for a cafeteria, a gym and a multimedia library. Staff also would be centralized, improving communication and providing more resources for all students.
The three older elementary schools are expected to cost the district $8 million to maintain during the next 20 years, they said. Boilers, plumbing and other systems are as old as the schools; none of the buildings have air conditioning.
Rockridge Forward has a website with a tax calculator at rockridgeforward.com that can be used to calculate the impact of the tax hike on individual property tax bills.
For example, according to the calculator, someone with a $150,000 property would see an increase of $281.07 annually until the bonds are paid off..
Opponents on the bond issue, a group called Save Our Schools, or SOS, argue the project is unnecessary on several points.
The elementary in Andalusia is still within its operational life, they said. The building was remodeled in the 1980s and residents were told then that the upgraded school would last another 50 years. It also had a recent roof replacement.
SOS also argues the ensuing tax hike would be a burden on district residents; utility services in Edgington may not be appropriate for supporting another building; that the district also has a dwindling population; closure would hurt the economies in the three communities; and that the elementary students should be kept separate from the older students.
There is a police presence at the Edgington campus, but there is no resident police department or fire station in the community, SOS said. The campus also relies on a septic, rather than a sewer system.
The bond referendum is one of several referendums that could affect the tax bill. Another school-related one is the 1 percent sales tax that, if passed would be used by Rock Island school districts to fund capital projects or related expenses like paying off bonds.
Rockridge gets about $7,000 in facilities sales tax revenue from Mercer County. If the Rock Island proposal passes, the district expects to receive nearly $600,000 annually.
Should both referendums pass on March 18, the Rockridge school district could use revenue from the new sales tax in October to start upgrading the high school, supporters said.
If the sales tax referendum is approved but the bond question fails, portions of the new sales tax revenue would have to be used to maintain the three aging elementary schools, Mr. Lien said.
Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today. 1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass. 1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links. 1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned. 1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today. 1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.