Referendum Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Updated on 2/8/17
Below is a list of ongoing questions and answers related to the upcoming April 4, 2017, referendum. This list will be updated on an ongoing basis between now and the election. Please check back often for updates. If you have a question that you wish to have answered about the referendum that is not listed here, please send an e-mail to Assistant Superintendent Kim Suedbeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What will the question look like on the ballot?
Shall the Board of Education of Hononegah Community High School District Number 207, Winnebago and Boone Counties, Illinois, build and equip a fieldhouse addition to the Hononegah Community High School Building to replace the dome, and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $17,800,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?
We have developed a tax calculator to provide you with a fast and easy tool to determine potential property tax increases associated with the proposed bond referendum.
This tax calculation is for the referendum bond increase only and does not include any other portions of the Hononegah tax levy or other municipal portions of your tax bill. The calculator also includes the portion of property taxes IF the bonds were drawn all in one year.
If all $17.8 million in bonds were drawn, Year 1 would result in $54.48 being added to your tax bill ($100,000 home) each year for 20 years.
If $8.9 million in bonds were drawn in Year 1 and the remaining $8.9 million were drawn in Year 2, your tax bill ($100,000 home) would go up $27.24 for those years.
CLICK HERE to view an interactive tax calculator.
How did the Board of Education make its decision?
When the referendum failed in November 2016, the Board discussed the feasibility of going out to referendum again in the spring. It was determined that because the collapse of the Dome has left Hononegah with limited space for physical education, we would ask voters for an amount to meet the immediate need of building a fieldhouse.
At its January 11, 2017, meeting the Board votes unanimously to place a referendum on the April 4 election ballot authorizing a bond issue to fund construction of a new fieldhouse to replace the dome that collapsed in late 2015.
How can I find out more information about the fieldhouse proposal and the bond referendum?
We are developing a section of the website that will have basic information on the Educational Master Facility Plan as well as the fieldhouse proposal that would be funded by the referendum bond issue. You can always call Dr. Lynn Gibson, Superintendent at 815-624-5010 or Dr. Kim Suedbeck, Assistant Superintendent at 815-624-5014.
What materials will be used in the building of the fieldhouse?
If the referendum passes, typical materials will be used to construct a permanent fieldhouse structure. While we can’t say specifically if the construction will be solely brick and mortar or a combination of materials until the renderings are complete, we intend to use all permanent materials.
What is the cost to the current homeowner in the Hononegah Community High School District #207?
The full $17.8 million bond issue, if passed, would increase taxes for the average $100,000 home by approximately $54 a year.
How long will the prospective tax increase take to go into effect?
The first increase in property taxes would take place in 2018.
Will all $17.8 million be drawn at once or slowly over a longer period of time?
The district will look at taking the bonds out over 1 - 2 years.
How long will it take for the referendum bonds be paid off?
How would the lack of a fieldhouse impact Physical Education classes?
The State of Illinois mandates Physical Education for every student, so we would have to continue to find ways to accommodate this requirement for approximately 2,100 students. Currently, classes are being held in the main gym, metal gym, upper gym, and cafeteria. These spaces are limited and do not allow for adequate teaching opportunities.
When would the work begin if the referendum passes?
If the referendum passes on April 4, the process for securing the funding would begin on April 5. We would anticipate having access to the funding by May 2017. Then construction could begin by June 2017.
What is the estimated length of the fieldhouse construction project?
When will the District collect the insurance payout from the Dome collapse?
Negotiations continue with the insurance company, and we hope to have this issue resolved very soon. We know that the district will collect between $500,000 and $3,000,000. We are fighting to receive the higher end of this amount and will have an update when we know the final amount.
How does insurance costs per year for a fieldhouse factor into the overall budget?
The overall maintenance and insurance for and fieldhouse would cost the district approximately $50,000 less than what the costs were to maintain the Dome. The maintenance costs will be covered by money already in the current budget.
Has the building and Dome been maintained?
The district followed and continues to follow a preventative maintenance schedule that includes items that need to be checked daily, weekly, monthly and annually. Some of the larger items include annual roof repairs, in which the district has repaired over 100,000 sq ft of roof in the past 5 years.
Does the referendum include other needs that were included in the referendum in the fall of 2016?
This referendum, if passed, would only include construction of a new fieldhouse.
What would be some positive outcomes for the community if the referendum passes?
Hononegah Community High School is a source of pride for our community. We are a school that attracts families to move into the district because they want to send their children to a school that offers an academically challenging and well-rounded education. Continuing the tradition of a school that graduates students who are well prepared for college and careers is an investment in our community as a whole. It signifies the importance we place on education and solidifies the district as a driving force in economic development and community stability.
The Dome was used for many community events throughout the year. The fieldhouse will be able to host the same events as we did in the Dome in the past, plus additional ones as the need arises.
Will the community be able to use the fieldhouse?
Should the referendum pass and a fieldhouse is built, we will look closely at how the community can have access, similarly to how the community used the Dome and uses the Performing Arts Center.
How much debt does the District currently have?
As of December 1, 2016, the District has approximately $6.3 million in long-term debt.
Will the District be able to take on the debt of these construction projects once the referendum passes?
Yes, Hononegah’s statutory debt margin allows the District to manage the debt of building a new fieldhouse.
How much reserve does the District have?
The District has approximately $9 million in reserve which is still below the state and school policy limit. The district’s goal is to have 25% reserve to expenditure ratio in the Education fund and it is currently at 22%.
How much does District #207 currently spend annually per student, and how does it compare to other school districts around the state?
Hononegah’s Operating Expense Per Pupil (OEPP) is $11,598.65 compared to an average of $16,493.52 OEPP for the rest of the state’s high school districts.
What are some of the District’s accolades?
- 78.4% of students taking an Advanced Placement exam pass with a 3 or higher, which allows them to transfer credits to a higher education institution.
- Mathew’s Challenge Index rates Hononegah in the top 10% of high performing schools in the State of Illinois.
- Average ACT score for the Class of 2015 is 23 compared to State average of 21.
- 63% of students from the Class of 2015 were ready for college course work compared to the State average of 46% based on Illinois State Board of Education benchmarks.
- 93% graduation rate compared to State average of 86%
- 75 Illinois State Scholars from the Class of 2016
- One of the first 10 schools in the nation with an Incubator, a high school think tank program.
- The staff consists of 120 certificated personnel, including 14 nationally board certified teachers.
- Over 81% of the teaching staff holds a master’s degree or higher.
- Choir and band students receive high honors through Illinois Music Education Association year after year.
- Ten students scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.
- NIC-10 All-Sports Trophy winner the last 13 of 15 years.
- 47 active extra-curricular clubs.
Is there a District strategy?
Yes, an extended Educational Master Facilities Plan has been created. The collapse of the Dome has accelerated this plan. Hononegah’s Educational Master Facility Plan (EMFP) began last year. Both the board and administration work to plan ahead and anticipate the needs of tomorrow’s students. This includes analyzing population trends, examining financial information, and studying best practices in learning environments.
What is an Educational Master Facilities Plan (EMFP)?
The EMFP is:
- Long-term roadmap for future.
- Builds upon previous planning and projects.
- Provides the District with tools to make informed educational and facility decisions.
- All stakeholders are engaged in an inclusive process that identifies unique concerns and ideas to educate and build support.
The EMFP should consider:
A learning environment that is flexible and adaptable for our students and teachers.
Utilization of current space plus consideration for additional space.
A world-class education in a world-class environment.
When did the Board start discussions about the Dome replacement? When did the Educational Master Facility Plan (EMFP) begin?
The EMFP began in 2015 as a means to develop a long-term facilities road map for the future. The Dome had an expected life span of 20 years. It collapsed after being used for 13 years. Given the expected life of the Dome, the Board made the decision to develop a EMFP in 2015, which included replacement of the Dome as a means to have a plan before the anticipated life expectancy ended.
What about the role of private funding?
Additional funding through private donations are always welcome. However, our current focus is on the referendum and the full execution of the projects earmarked for the funds should the referendum pass.
Why don’t we sell the McCurry Road land?
This property in Roscoe will be utilized to expand our campus as the student population increases. This property was purchased in 2008 for $1.5 million with a current value of approximately $2.5 million. The District also sold land for $700,000, and utilized those funds to help pay for the property. This land is part of the facility plan should a second high school be needed due to student enrollment increasing to over 85 percent capacity of the current facility in Rockton.
Who owns the empty school across from Hononegah?
The lot and building are privately owned. Hononegah has never owned the building nor surrounding lot.
What is the history of prior referendums and original Dome construction?
The last referendum was in 2004 for $2.5 million to add to the Education fund. That referendum failed.
The building additions began in the 1950s and continued periodically until the last one in 2002-2003. That was a $15 million project that included 20 plus classrooms, including the technology entrance and classrooms at the rear of the building, and the Dome. The funding came from an $8 million construction grant from the State of Illinois and $7 million from a tort bond that was sold years earlier by the District but was never used. A referendum was necessary to convert the use of the tort bond to the construction project. After the classroom space was designed, a community meeting was held to decide whether to use the projected remaining funds to build a small “brick and mortar” building or a much larger structure using the new-technology of air support structure for indoor activities. About 60-70 community members attended, the decision was overwhelming to go with the larger air structure.
The Dome was completed in 2002 and was the first of its kind at an Illinois public school. The option of the Dome was chosen over a traditional brick fieldhouse because the construction of a Dome would cost $3 million as opposed to $6 million for a traditional style building. The District needed 20 plus classrooms due to rapidly increasing enrollment and the construction of the Dome at a lower cost provided the funds for the additional classrooms. Construction of the Dome included the fabric dome, concrete, gym floor, expanded locker facilities and lighting.
When was the last successful referendum?
Will money from the referendum be used for personnel?
The referendum is for capital projects only. It cannot be used for salaries.
How many community and athletic events took place in the Dome? Would the number increase with a new fieldhouse?
While it varies from year to year, the Dome held approximately 14 community events in 2014-2015. The Dome also had 6 athletic events for the same year and approximately 3 Physical Education classes were held each period of the school day. We would continue to look at ways to expand the community usage once the fieldhouse is constructed.
Why don’t we add a 7th period to the class schedule instead of adding buildings in order to accommodate educational needs?
As a District, we continue to look for ways to expand educational experiences for all students at Hononegah. During the 2016-2017 school year, students who took Physical Education were allowed to take an additional class. This allowed students to fulfill the State mandated requirement to have Physical Education in their schedule and participate in other elective courses. Summer school classes are also taken without charge so that students are able to participate in a 7th period during the school year. This has been done for the past 10 years.
Is the District giving DLA Architects ideas on the design of the fieldhouse?
The District is working with DLA to determine the best fieldhouse design to meet the needs of Hononegah students and staff. DLA has met with the Board, administration, teachers and students to gather ideas on teaching practices currently in place, those that may be implemented in the future, and how the teaching spaces can accommodate those practices. DLA will continue to seek information and ideas from stakeholders to design the best spaces for Hononegah now and in the future.
Who is DLA? Why did Hononegah choose this firm?
DLA is one of the top educational architects in the nation. The School Board went through a long search and interview process and believe that they provide us the best opportunity to move our district in the direction that is best for our students, staff and community members.
Can we increase partnerships with local government and businesses to help build buildings?
Hononegah works with many agencies and businesses in the region and has developed strong partnerships with them. Some donate supplies and/or equipment and time to support the education of Hononegah students.
Are businesses taxed differently?
No, unless they are a corporation.
Will non-union laborers be used if they are the lowest bidder?
Districts are required by Illinois State law to use prevailing wage.
Is there any state or federal money available?
There are grants that we have utilized in the past for the dome and classroom upgrades from 2002 in the amount of $8 million. We apply for construction grants from the state whenever they are available. Currently, there are no available grants from the state. Districts who are utilizing state grants have been on the waiting list from previous grant funding cycles.
Was the dome cost efficient? What did it cost in electric and gas bills for the year?
To operate the Dome, it cost the District $300K a year, which included utilities, maintenance, insurance and custodial needs.