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School Board Considers Spending $5 Million

Officials look at capital improvements for Lake Forest High School. They may borrow $3.5 million to pay for infrastructure and Lindemeyer Field East Campus track.

Replacement of aging infrastructure and improvements of athletic facilities at the Lake Forest High School East Campus are part of a potential $5 million capital spending plan under consideration by the Lake Forest Community High School District 115 Board of Education.

The Board heard an initial report from Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations Allen Albus at its Tuesday meeting. Albus told Patch Thursday it was time to consider the project because the District has regained its financial footing after the economic downturn began in 2008.

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“We’ve been on a path to black,” Albus said. “We made budget reductions and brought our labor (contract) in line with the current economy.”

The initial proposal calls for approximately $1.5 million to come from capital reserve funds and the remaining $3.5 million to be derived from the sale of bonds. Repayment of principal and interest will come from the operating budget, according to Albus.

The most expensive part of the project is replacing the approximately 20-year-old six-lane track at Lindemeyer Field with an eight-lane banked oval and building new storage facilities to replace those currently located under the bleachers.

“A track banked at the curves is easier on the knees. It is a safer design” Albus said. “An eight lane track will encroach on the existing bleachers.” Temporary bleachers will be purchased. “We have to keep the storage facilities.”

With no intention of installing lights at Lindemeyer Field, the eight-lane track will make it easier to finish events before dark, according to Albus. He also explained the temporary seats can be moved to other fields at the East Campus for events.

Other proposed infrastructure items include a new Dectron unit for the swimming pool to maintain air quality, new air conditioning units and hot water boilers where needed and a new rigging system for the theater. “These have come to the end of a meaningful life,” Albus said. 

With interest rates on bonds at or near record lows and the District in an improved financial condition, Albus believes borrowing part of the money is the right approach. “It’ a very good time to borrow,” he said. “The fact is it’s a good plan.” He sees the ability to retire the debt ahead of time.

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Robert T January 11, 2013 at 01:04 PM
Here we go again "path to black" . Anyone seeing their tax bill will understand that this district loves "tax and spend". School board>>time to get citizen input on this "nice to have "huge expenditure.
concerned citizen January 11, 2013 at 02:11 PM
What happened to the "Diamond Campaign" and having all the money in hand before plans proceed?
Bob January 11, 2013 at 02:37 PM
This is crazy! Borrowing money is another dumb idea on top of their last dumb idea. This is not the way you manage a budget. They already own $75M for the "apple store" hallway they built.
Steve Hill January 11, 2013 at 02:49 PM
This would appear to be a case of clear fiscal mismanagement. Less than a year ago, the District 115 School Board turned down over $1.5 Million that had been raised by this community to fix the track and surrounding facilities at LFHS East Campus. This would have been one of the largest gifts in the history of Illinois public schools. A few months later, we're going to borrow money to fund the same project? As a taxpayer and an admirer of the community spirit that drove the recent Diamond Campaign, I believe a thorough and public explanation is owed.
Bonita January 11, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Agree
Scout January 11, 2013 at 03:47 PM
First of all, does the District HAVE $1.5 million dollars in reserve funds? Second, by law, the District is supposed to keep a percentage of its reserve funds for emergencies, i.e. roofing issues, HVAC breakdown, etc. What happens if there IS a major emergency...do we sit on the new bleachers to discuss our options? Third, for anyone who has run on the track or been at events at the track, it is in fine shape. While the bleachers could use an overhaul, I don't think it is a $5 million dollar project at taxpayer expense. Fourth, the Boards always report how 'fiscally sound they are', yet, here we are borrowing money for a new track, bleachers and air quality system? Why are we borrowing money for these items if we are so fiscally sound? Finally, the Board needs an oversight group, Office of Inspector General, to come in and conduct the thorough evaluation which Steve Hill refers to in his posting.
Roger Billings January 11, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Ummm, Steve. Was that all real money or a small amount of real money and a large amount of long-term pledges? What were the other strings attached? Facts matter, and unless you are in possession of them, please refrain from posting here.
Donor January 11, 2013 at 07:48 PM
We never really got the full story on what happened with the Diamond Campaign, maybe that's why we don't have all of the facts. I for one would like a complete explanation as to why the money was turned down. If the concern was long term pledges, could we have waited on the improvements until more of the funding was in? It would be nice to have more information about that situation.
Steve Hill January 11, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Mr. Billings has raised some reasonable questions. The following is factual as it comes from sources directly involved in the process. 1. The School Superintendent and the School Board were aware of and supportive of the Diamond Campaign (DC) from its earliest stages. 2. The DC plan was to replace the current track, add a turf field, and replace/upgrade the surrounding facilities. 3. The DC received about $1.7 Million in written pledges from credible Lake Forest residents, over $300,000 was cash with the balance pledged in equal amounts over four years. 4. The School Board had planned to support the DC plan with an additional $1.2 Million to complete the project. 5. After the DC fundraising was complete, the School Board changed its position and turned down the gift. This was in the summer of 2012. 6. The recently voiced School Board plan to replace the track will cost $1.6 Million (a portion of the $5 Million referred to in the article). This is substantially more than the District would have spent had it accepted the DC gift - and we won’t get the new turf field with the new School Board plan.
Mosober January 11, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Here we go again. Tax and spend...........
J Smith January 11, 2013 at 10:03 PM
The promise of the Diamond campaign never materialized. Kudos to the Board for not succumbing to the pressure of a very few. The repayment from the operating budget means it comes from existing revenue. Should things like air systems, boilers, rigging systems be left until they break or hurt someone ? (Which you would then criticize the district for not addressing) If you don't like the district plan how would any propose to maintain facilities? I am glad they are putting a plan forward.
Me January 11, 2013 at 10:26 PM
The most fundamental question is: Do we really NEED these things or just want them?
Scout January 11, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Exactly.
LF parent January 13, 2013 at 02:39 PM
As part of the Path to Black programs, LFHS staff was reduced and classes, including higher level language and math, were eliminated. Prior to that, the dedicated college counselor position was eliminated. This, in exchange for two additional track lanes (banked nonetheless!)? A full public explanation is required.
Roger Billings January 13, 2013 at 03:02 PM
The numbers you cite as being raised by the DC are at least $800,000 below the amount that was promised at the outset. Public/private partnerships are great (and LF has a strong history of them), but there needs to be a far better balance than what would have resulted here. The Board made the correct decision.
Jim January 14, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Steve and Roger, Today we are being asked if we think it makes sense to borrow this same money that the DC promissed. If they want to do the project today it seems that the board did not make a good decison. Even if the ammount that was raised by the DC was less than originally planned ( which i have no facts either way to comment on) wouldnt the smaller amount still be worth accepting?
Steve Hill January 14, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Yes.
Ted January 17, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Just out of curiosity I researched banked oval field tracks. They are extremely rare in outdoor settings and are considered unnecessary. They are occasionally used on indoor tracks as the tracks are smaller and tighter. The normal indoor track is 200 meters in length with tighter turns as opposed to the normal outdoor track that is 440 yards in length with less sharp turns, with less of a need for banking to counter the centrifugal forces. How many high school and college outdoor tracks are banked in the Midwest. My guess is you could count them on one hand. I think money would be better spent on things like education rather than things like this.
Stanley Johnson January 25, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Actually Scout the track is in horrible condition. People who run track are probably embarrass to run on it. You could probably go to North Chicago or Waukegan, and they have a better track then Lake Forest. The surface is very hard, and by IHSA law, the track is in its last year of existence. You know why??? Cause it hasn't been re-done in nearly 25 years. How embarrassing would that be if LFHS kids can't even hold events on their track cause people of LF didn't bother to approve what LFHS is trying to do.

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