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Update: DeKalb taxpayers have paid $51M so far from DeKalb High School referendums

DeKALB – The repayment plan to pay down $108 million in bond debt from a 2009 referendum to build DeKalb High School and Cortland Elementary School will push back the final payment to 2035, almost 30 years after the bond was issued, District 428 Finance and Business Director Cindy Carpenter said.

The District 428 School Board approved the final step in restructuring bond payments Tuesday, and while the plan sets the repayment back to 2035 instead of 2030, it’s expected to cut the annual portion taxpayers have to contribute by about half, Carpenter said.

Between 2008 and 2011, the district issued four referendum-approved bonds that totaled $110 million to finance DeKalb High School, repurposing the old high school building into Huntley Middle School, 1515 S. Fourth St., and renovating Cortland and Founders elementary schools. Thus far, DeKalb taxpayers have paid $51 million through tax levies over the course of the past decade, said Carpenter. In total, $58.8 million has been paid for the debt service, with $6.2 million coming from Build America Bonds interest rebates and $1.7 million bond and interest tax abatements from the district.

The district has been tackling ways to restructure the growing bond interest ever since, and have utilized funds from three major revenue sources – district pools such as $3 million in tax increment finance surplus dollars and $10 million from the district’s working cash fund, to bond and interest tax levy abatements and a $5 million Property Tax Relief Grant – to do so.

For a DeKalb resident whose home is valued at $150,000, they can expect their annual debt service payment on the District 428 portion of their property tax bill to be about $366 a year. Without the bond restructure, that payment would be $601, Carpenter said.

It’s been a long-haul for District 428, with the past decade bringing a new high school and elementary schools, though not without fallback.

The 2008 Great Recession caused a downturn in home values, and the loss of funds contributed to the need to restructure bonds. The $15 million Cortland Elementary school, 370 Lexington Avenue, Cortland, build came with its own controversy, as its close proximity to Waste Management landfill across the street led to a 2014 lawsuit after 60 students and staff were treated for low-level carbon monoxide exposure. After a ruling by the Illinois Attorney General’s office, Waste Management agreed to pay more than $70,000 in medical bills.

In April of 2019, the board also agreed to set aside $3 million to pay down the principal from 2009 bonds using money from the city’s tax increment finance district known as TIF 2 when it expired Dec. 31, 2018.

This story has been updated to include the fact that DeKalb taxpayers have thus far contributed $51 million to repay bonds taken out a decade ago to pay for DeKalb High School and several elementary school build-outs.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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