Wheaton R-III board to place bond issue on ballot

Friday, February 2, 2007

In April, the Wheaton R-III School Board will present voters with a $1.7 million no-tax increase bond issue that will finance the construction of a new vocational building.

"The current tax levy for the district is $3.43," said Jim Cummins, superintendent. "If the issue passes, the levy would be allocated differently, but the total levy would still be $3.43."

Although the Wheaton School Board has not approved architectural plans for the new vocational building, it approved the bond issue ballot language and voted to place the issue on the ballot during its regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 18.

"The vocational building plans are conceptionally solid," said Cummins. "Decisions will have to be made about overall square footage and building materials based upon the budget."

The school board members have scheduled a tour of area vocational buildings on Feb. 3. The board plans to finalize plans for Wheaton's new building in the near future.

Agriculture, business, family and consumer science programs will be relocated into the new vocational building. A new computer lab is also included in the conceptional plans.

"Our agriculture program is one of our most successful programs, and it has produced many graduates who are now farming in the community," said Cummins. "We want to provide this program with facilities that match the success.

"Also by moving all vocational programs, we can free up some classrooms and open the high school computer lab back up for use," said Cummins. "It is presently being used (only) by the business classes."

In addition to the no-tax increase bond issue, the board is looking at the possibility of building a new elementary office, which will be relocated in order to offer the district a more secure campus. The office project will be financed through the district's cash reserves, said Cummins.

"We are looking at a way to move the elementary office to a better location for building security, as well as creating additional classroom space to eliminate teachers' aides and supplementary programs from having to meet in the halls," said Cummins. "This would be paid for with reserves on hand."

Plans for the new elementary office are still in the developmental stage. The board is looking at many different options to ensure the approved plan will solve as many issues as possible using monies available in the budget, said Cummins.

"We believe our district can be outstanding despite being small," said Cummins. "To do this, we must continue to look for prudent ways to improve our programs and facilities.

"The issuance of bonds to pay for an expansion of our facilities and programs that does not raise taxes will allow us to take another step toward our goal," said Cummins. "Our students are excellent young men and women who deserve the investment in their education."

The bond issue proposal would have to receive a four-sevenths majority for passage in the April 3 election. Board members have been discussing building options since the summer. A portion of the process involved input from the Wheaton community.

The next Wheaton R-III School Board meeting is scheduled to be held on Feb. 22.

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