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CUSD 10 places a zero-rate-change initiative on the March 19 ballot

Devese “Dee” Ursery

dursery@timestribunenews.com 

COLLINSVILLE — The Collinsville Community Unit School District 10 has placed a proposal on the March 19, 2024 general primary election that will not change the tax rate for homeowners in the district.

CUSD 10 added a zero-rate-change ballot initiative on this year’s general primary election ballot to address critical facility needs throughout the District. If approved the proposal will fund approximately $2.3 million yearly in facility improvements and will not change the tax rate. The initiative would allow the district to replace exterior and interior doors to improve safety, upgrade heating and cooling systems to improve efficiency, according to Collins. 

Other facility renovations would allow students, staff and community members with disabilities to have independent access throughout the district. More facility upgrades will update dated and worn school interiors to improve the learning environment.

The Board of Education has proposed a financial strategy known as a tax transfer, which involves reallocating existing funds without raising overall taxes, according to Kimberly Collins, public relations liaison, CUSD 10.

“This plan would retire bonds from the early 2000s to provide funding for an increase in the Operations and Maintenance Fund rate from 50 cents to 72 cents. Essentially, the money previously used to pay off the old bonds would be redirected to the O&M Fund,” Collins said.

“This shift allows the district to invest in critical facility needs without incurring new debt or paying additional interest, as the total tax rate remains unchanged. This method leverages existing resources more efficiently to address the district’s requirements.”

Collins said although the ballot language reads a tax rate increase, because of this transfer, the total tax rate paid to the district does not change.

The ballot proposal, along with additional funds from the Health/Life/Safety funding and accumulated reserves will fund $35 million in improvements over the next seven years without changing the tax rate, per official documents.

“Over the past year, we’ve conducted extensive evaluation of our district facilities with staff, architects and engineers to identify our most critical needs throughout our schools,” said CUSD 10 Superintendent Dr. Mark B. Skertich. “We also sought feedback from our community members through the Kahoks Connect engagement program. Together, with the information from all groups, a plan to improve our schools without changing the tax rate was developed, and is now on the March ballot.”

Skertich explained that by implementing this funding plan, the district can leverage existing resources efficiently to address CUSD needed improvements. 

“This allows the district to invest more resources in critical facility needs without incurring new debt or paying additional interest, as the total tax rate remains unchanged. Money generated by this proposal will go directly to facility improvements,” Skertich said. “In total, nearly $35 million in improvements over the next seven years will be made to district facilities with zero change to the tax rate.”

According to Collins an estimated $3 million worth of work will be done each summer. The work will consist of safety enhancements to include door replacement, heating and cooling upgrades and restroom renovations. “The district has worked with the architect, engineer and maintenance staff to identify the areas of greatest need that will serve as the starting point for the facility improvements,” Collins continued.

The timetable for renovating or making improvements to schools must be flexible and require careful planning to ensure student learning is not disrupted, according to Collins. 

“If the proposal is approved, the district will work closely with architects and construction managers to implement the most efficient timeline and complete identified work in approximately seven years,” Collins said. “All renovation plans will be shared with parents and our community as dates and schedules are finalized. Work would begin during the summer of 2025.”

Collins explained that an extensive evaluation was conducted of district facilities by staff, architects as well as engineers, along with feedback from community members. The evaluations focused on educational needs, safety and security, accessibility along with the heating and cooling systems.

“The district worked with architects, engineers and other experts who identified the most critical needs in our schools,” Collins said. “We heard that there are facility needs that must be addressed as soon as possible and those needs should be addressed without a tax rate increase.”
Beginning in the fall of 2023, KAHOKS CONNECT was created to gather input from a broad base of parents, employees and residents of the Collinsville Community Unit School District #10. The team received its official charge from the Collinsville Board of Education.

KAHOKS CONNECT is a team of parents, community members and district staff who went out seeking input on current challenges the school district faces regarding necessary upgrades. 

The team hosted a series of 11 tours at separate CUSD 10 school buildings in October 2023. During these community engagement events, nearly 200 participants visited Collinsville schools and provided feedback on priorities and recommendations to improve District facilities. Participants shared their thoughts on the current condition of CUSD 10 facilities, critical facility needs and upgrades, as well as priorities for additional facility needs.

According to ideas and suggestions collected at each building tour provided important information for KAHOKS CONNECT’s final recommendations, per documents. Data from the building tours is available to be viewed on the ballot initiative webpage.

The findings from the facilities evaluation and the Kahoks Connect community engagement project were presented to the board of education in November of 2023. During their December meeting, Board members voted to place a zero-rate-change proposal on this year’s general primary election ballot to address critical facility needs throughout Collinsville CUSD 10.The proposed ballot initiative will impact each school in CUSD 10. Below is a list of the schools and they will be impacted. Each CUSD 10 building will have safety and security updates done to them including entryways and the installation of bullet resistant film on doors and windows.

Collinsville High School, Dorris Intermediate School along with Jefferson, Kreitner, Summit, Renfro, Twin Echo, Webster, Hollywood Heights and Maryville Elementary schools will all

be replacing identified exterior and interior doors, making them ADA compliant. 

CHS, DIS, Collinsville Middle, Hollywood Heights, Maryville, Kreitner and Webster will be also updating their HVAC systems, replacing ceiling tiles and LED lights as well as updating paint in those buildings.

Collinsville Community Unit School District #10 comprises 13 schools, serving 6,100+ students PreK-12 in Madison & St. Clair Counties. 

For more information, including a complete list of identified work compiled through the Kahoks Connect community engagement process, visit https://www.kahoks.org/schools/ballot-initiative.  

Skertich stated that it is important for all registered voters that reside within Unit 10 exercise their right to vote on Mar. 19. He also said a Community Forum will be held at 6 p.m. on

 Feb. 29, in the Oak Room at the VFW hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. at 6:00 PM.

Skertich will present the facts of the initiative and answer questions from those in attendance.

 

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