11 months, 1 week ago by Scott Hardy
Referendum to be on November ballot
A referendum seeking approval for the Quincy Public Schools to issue $89 million in bonds to build five new elementary schools and several additions to Quincy High School will be on the November 4 ballot.
The Quincy School Board voted 5-2 Thursday night to put the referendum on the November ballot so that, in the words of Board Vice-President Jeff Mays, “You have a choice. If we didn’t vote to do this, we’re still going to have to spend $67 million to maintain our schools over the next 20 years. And we can do that. This board can maintain our schools. But you don’t get a choice in that.”
The $67 million is what the Board projects they’d have to spend on the current buildings based on required Health, Life, Safety guidelines from the state of Illinois.
Voting for the referendum were Mays, Board President Stephanie Erwin, Scott Stone, Sayeed Ali and Sheldon Bailey. Voting against were Bud Niekamp and Richard McNay, who prefaced his vote by saying he is for school re-organization and for new buildings, but that instead of a bond issue, he would prefer a county-wide sales tax that would be divided between QPS and the county’s four other districts, based on enrollment.
The District’s master plan calls for:
Building three new elementary schools on new sites, at a cost of $15,600,000 each
Tearing down Monroe elementary and building a new school behind the current location, at a cost of $14,200,000
Creating a new elementary school using the current location of Baldwin Intermediate school, at a cost of $12,000,000
Building additions to Quincy High School, including a Freshmen addition at a cost of $16,000,000
Re-aligning the elementary schools to host grades K-5, Quincy Junior High to host grades 6-8, and Quincy Senior High to host grades 9-12
Todd Moore of Architechnics, a member of the Design team that was picked from Quincy’s three architectural firms, gave the School Board a presentation of how the elementary schools would look, as well as the additions to Quincy High.
Some of the highlights of the presentation included:
Each elementary school would have 900 square foot classrooms, with a maximum of 25 students per room
The commons area at Baldwin Intermediate would be used for a new elementary school; the gym, cafeteria and auditorium would remain
Quincy High would gain 27 new classrooms, an expanded gym facility and kitchen and a 1900 square foot technology lab
The Steering Committee that developed the Master Plan had originally planned for four new buildings but according to Moore, based on the designs for the new schools submitted by the Design team, the committee realized in mid-July that the cost projections for a fourth new building on a new site would have been too high.
Several people spoke at the meeting, voicing their opposition to building all the structures at once, preferring to build one building at a time. Board President Erwin replied that if the board built multiple structures, the annual savings in operating costs would be $1.5 to $2 million. Erwin also pointed out that there would be savings from an eventual consolidation of administration and staff for the new elementary schools. Stone also noted that current construction costs and interest rates are at historic lows. Several board members also pointed out that all students would benefit from the upgrades in technology, and that no one neighborhood would gain, or be left out.
When asked “How are we going to pay for this?” QPS Business Manager Joel Murphy pointed out that the building bonds are similar to a “20 year mortgage”, and that there would be no increase in the overall property tax rate from the bond issue.