A reimbursement bond issuance will mean higher taxes for Unit 5 residents. (photo by Zach Dietmeier/WJBC)
By Zach Dietmeier
NORMAL - Bills, bonds, and budgets are the mind of the Unit 5 school board and will soon be on the mind of its taxpayers.
The district is looking to rebuild its site and construction fund after last year's emergency asbestos removal at Chiddix Junior High. Superintendent Gary Niehaus said the recommendation of issuing $3.75 million in working cash bonds over five years is ambitious but better in the long term.
"If you multiple that number out over 10 years the taxpayer is basically paying the same amount versus five years in total dollars," Niehaus said. "The long term may be a little bit more but it's practically the same amount of money and it's quicker."
The repayment scenario means the owner of a $150,000 home will pay $17 more in taxes this year. However, the district will only accumulate about a quarter of the interest it would over a 10-year repayment.
Bills, bills, bills
The continuing uncertainty over pension reform is leaving Unit 5 underfunded. Niehaus said the state owes the district a significant amount of backpayment - about $3.2 million.
"[State Comptroller Judy Baar] Topinka said she owes $1 billion in state bills," Niehaus said. "We're at the 3.2 level and it hasn't changed that much but is primarily in transportation and education."
Niehaus added that he was disappointed the lame duck session produced little in the way of results and he continues to have no confidence in Springfield as the new General Assembly hasn't taken up the pension debate. He doesn't expect much change in the near future.
Budget in black halfway home
The six-month budget outlook is positive for the district. Superintendent Niehaus said the district is right on track with its spending, and that's a good place to be.
"Anytime you're on budget you feel good about it," Niehaus said. "I think we'll finish in the black again this year. Our board obviously doesn't want us defecit spending and we've met our goals to be able to do that at halftime. Hopefully that continues."
Niehaus predicts a cautious spending outlook for the next six months and said spending in the operation and maintenance fund as well as transportation and utilities is expected to stay under budget.
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at email@example.com.