Frequently Asked Questions
We recently surveyed our community to identify a plan to improve our facilities, and our residents indicated they are ready to move forward. To implement this consensus plan, a referendum will appear on our ballots in the upcoming November 8, 2022, election to increase the district’s debt service extension base to $5 million. Once implemented, this would not increase the annual debt service burden for taxpayers while allowing the district to:
- Sustainably and Responsibly Address Our Facility Needs
- Modernize Our School Infrastructure
- Improve Learning Environments for All Students
Please review the information below to learn more about Lemont High School District 210's referendum question that will appear on the November 8, 2022, ballot.
- General Questions
- Financial Questions
- Voting Questions
- Questions from Feedback Form and Community Presentations
- Have a Question or Wish to Provide Feedback?
How was District 210’s facility improvement plan developed, and what is included?The Lemont High School District 210 Board of Education engaged DLA Architects to fully assess the condition of the school’s facilities and infrastructure, both at its main campus and at the LHS Sports Complex. That assessment led to the master facilities plan being developed in 2018; this plan is an evolving document and is updated at least annually. Data from that assessment helped establish general categories of needed facility improvements that were incorporated into a community survey that was administered in August 2022.
The survey results indicate our residents are ready to move forward with facility improvements, and also inform prioritization of those improvements. Updates to classrooms - particularly science labs, STEM learning spaces, and areas used for career and technical education - are a high priority in our overall facility improvement plan.
What is the referendum question that will appear on the November 8, 2022, ballot?The following question will appear on the ballot:
“Shall the debt service extension base under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for Lemont Township High School District Number 210, Cook and DuPage Counties, Illinois, for payment of principal and interest on limited bonds be increased from $249,604 to $5,000,000 for the 2022 levy year and all subsequent levy years?”
What is the debt service extension base?The debt service extension base represents the maximum annual tax levy that a taxing body can extend to pay principal and interest on its non-referendum debt.
The debt service extension base was established when tax caps went into effect in Illinois, and was determined by the dollar amount of principal and interest the district was obligated to pay the year it became subject to the tax cap. This amount is different for every school district.
While the debt service extension base for many school districts is in the millions of dollars, Lemont High School District 210's debt service extension base currently is just $249,604.
Why is District 210 seeking a $5 million debt service extension base?
The amount due on the 2027 debt service levy, which will cover the final payment on the district’s previous voter-approved bonds in 2006, is a little more than $5 million. Successful passage of this referendum will allow District 210 to levy as much as $5 million annually, which will provide consistent, sustainable funding for the district. Once implemented, this would not increase the annual debt service burden for taxpayers. In fact, this amount will be slightly less than the scheduled 2027 debt service levy.
Why is the referendum necessary?Many of our once state-of-the-art facilities are outdated and in need of renovation. Most of our classrooms and lab spaces are not designed for today’s curriculum. Some of our most frequently used athletic facilities have not been updated since the 1990s, and it shows. Our infrastructure, mechanicals, and furniture are aging. Our students eat in what originally was a locker room, the 25-year-old floor in our field house is cracked and must be replaced, and some of our mechanical systems are so old they disrupt our students’ learning environment.
We maintain our facilities well, but with our infrastructure aging, we’ve reached a point where we are having to make the difficult choice between addressing immediate facility needs and improving educational environments for our students.
Our kids deserve better. If we are going to continue the tradition of excellence our community expects, Lemont High School needs improved facilities like those enjoyed by students in many of our surrounding districts.
What projects could District 210 pursue if the referendum is successful?A successful referendum will lead to more modern infrastructure that meets our community’s expectation for excellence. The district will be able to address immediate infrastructure and mechanical needs throughout our aging school building, including roofs, electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, chillers, flooring, and paving. We also will be able to address larger capital needs, returning to the state-of-the-art facilities our students, teachers, and community expect.
The plan also will provide improved learning environments for all our students. We will be able to renovate our labs and dedicated music spaces, update science classrooms, and expand STEM spaces to optimize hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and math. All our students will be able to learn in updated classrooms and 21st century learning spaces with modern features and collaborative furniture. We also will be able to vastly improve career learning spaces for culinary arts, woodworking and carpentry, robotics, computer-assisted drafting, computer repair and networking, cybersecurity, coding, and graphic design to better prepare students for the world of work.
Why is this important for taxpayers who do not have children enrolled at Lemont High School?For more than 130 years, Lemont High School has served as the pride of our community, with a tradition of excellence that has helped generations of students become life-long, independent learners and productive citizens.
Our community is committed to working together as a family, which has made Lemont High School one of the top high schools in the state, as well as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. In fact, we are first among South Suburban Conference schools in graduation rate and average composite SAT, have earned an “exemplary” rating from the Illinois State Board of Education for four straight years, are one of only three high schools in the country to house a CITGO Innovation Academy, and have won the South Suburban Conference President’s Cup as the league’s top athletic program 11 of the past 16 years.
No wonder so many of our graduates return home to start their families and careers!
Parents of current grade school or middle school students soon will see their children at Lemont High School, and young adults who make their residence in the district could very likely someday have children who attend Lemont High School as well. Their support serves as an investment in their children’s future. Those individuals whose children are grown may have grandchildren in the district someday – or may already – and their support is an investment in the education of those young people.
All District 210 taxpayers, regardless if they have children, benefit from living in a community where a high performing high school improves the quality of life and property values.
Why are you pursuing an increase in the debt service extension base and will it increase our property taxes?An increase to the debt service extension base will allow us to address our facility needs now and into the future in a sustainable and responsible way. Funding our needed infrastructure improvements through a debt service extension base increase instead of traditional bonds leads to two key advantages for the district and taxpayers. First, this is a long-term funding source, providing a sustainable solution to the district’s immediate and ongoing infrastructure needs. Second, these bonds can be issued when funds are needed for specific projects rather than all at once, resulting in significant interest cost savings for taxpayers.
What’s more, once the district completes paying off bonds that taxpayers previously approved, the debt service extension base increase will not result in an increase in the tax levy for bond debt.
How do my taxes as a District 210 resident compare with other school districts in the area?District 210 receives less state and federal funding than most other south suburban districts. We make the most of our available funding, utilizing conservative budgeting practices to ensure we are using taxpayer money as efficiently and effectively as possible. We’ve held staffing steady for the past decade, ensured a balanced budget and responsible fund balances, and prioritized maintaining what we have over buying new.
This has led to our district having the lowest tax rate in Cook County and the second lowest tax rate in DuPage County compared to all other high school districts. Lemont taxpayers pay among the lowest taxes for their K-12 schools, with the second lowest combined tax rate in all of Cook County and the fourth lowest combined tax rate in all of DuPage County.Will the debt service extension base approved by referendum be used to cover salaries and benefits?No. Debt service funds only would be used to fund needed facility improvement and infrastructure projects. By law, these funds must only be used for that purpose because referendum language is legally binding. We will continue to fund salaries and benefits out of our standard operating budget. Any funds approved by the community through this successful referendum will be 100 percent invested in improving our school facilities and infrastructure.
What comprises the debt service levy?
The district’s debt service levy is comprised of scheduled bond and interest payments on bonds issued within its debt service extension base, as well as scheduled bond and interest payments on bonds that previously have been approved by district taxpayers.
A successful referendum would allow District 210 to increase its debt service extension base immediately. However, there will be no impact on taxpayers as the district repays its current bonds because District 210 WILL NOT exercise its increased debt service extension base until its previously scheduled bond debt is retired.
Its final scheduled bond and interest payment on the 2006 referendum bonds will be paid in 2028 with taxes received from the 2027 debt service levy.
If this increase will not be exercised for several years, why are you pursuing a debt service extension base increase now?With an increased debt service extension base secured for future use, District 210 will begin addressing facility needs immediately by utilizing a portion of its fund balance reserves.
Please provide an example for the need of an increased debt service extension base.Without an increase to the debt service extension base, once the previous bonds are paid, the maximum amount District 210 could include in its annual debt service levy is its current debt service extension base of $249,604. This low debt service extension base will not allow District 210 to maintain its facility needs, modernize its infrastructure, or improve learning environments for all students.
One of the projects that was included in the community survey was modernizing classrooms, which had an estimated cost of $3 million. With an increased debt service extension base, District 210 could pursue this project, and also address other needs, through just one year of a debt service levy.
Without an increase to the debt service extension base, that same $3 million classroom modernization would tie up the district’s debt service levy for at least 13 years - through the 2040 debt service levy.
Who can vote on the November 8, 2022, referendum question?Any registered voter living within Lemont High School District 210’s boundaries is eligible to vote. Individuals can vote by mail, vote early, or vote at their regular polling place.
How can I register to vote?In order to register to vote, an individual must be a United States citizen, 18 years of age by the date of the election, and a resident of his or her precinct for the 30 days immediately prior to the election.
Please click here to learn more about registering to vote in Cook County or DuPage County.
When can I vote?You can vote by mail, in person through early voting, or in person on Election Day (Tuesday, November 8).
Individuals interested in voting by mail can request a ballot. Once that ballot is received in the mail, it can be returned at your convenience, but must be postmarked by November 8 and arrive in the county clerk’s office within 14 days of Election Day.
Early voting will be available from Sunday, October 23, through Monday, November 7. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
Please click here for more information on the various ways you can vote in the upcoming election.
Through the Referendum Questions and Feedback form and community presentations, we have received many questions from members of our community. Though not an exhaustive list of those questions, please find some additional questions and answers below.
The wording for some questions may have been adjusted for clarity or length.
- How was the requested amount of the debt service extension base determined?
- Where is the current annual debt service extension accounted for in the annual budget?
- What are projected local sources of revenue amounts for the debt service fund for the next 10 to 15 years if this referendum passes?
Through this referendum, we are asking for taxpayers to maintain the support they are providing our school district. While the referendum question makes reference to an increase in the debt service extension base, there will not be an increase in the overall annual debt service burden for our taxpayers.
The district’s debt service levy is comprised of two components: scheduled bond and interest payments on bonds issued within its debt service extension base, and scheduled bond and interest payments on bonds that previously have been approved by district taxpayers. Please see the chart below.
The debt service extension base (the blue portion in the graph) is part of the annual debt service levy. The revenue budgeted for the debt service fund includes both the debt service extension base and the outstanding bonds from the 2006 referendum.
The graph above shows the expected debt service fund revenue over the next six years. If the referendum is successful, the debt service fund revenue (beginning with the 2028 levy) will be $5 million annually (as shown by the solid black line denoting the new debt service extension base). This amount is less than the 2027 levy.
- How can you raise the debt service extension amount from $249,604 annually to $5 million annually without increasing the annual debt service tax burden for taxpayers?
- Will this immediately raise our taxes?
- Does the referendum language prevent the board from issuing this debt prior to 2027?
As the chart above illustrates, there is a schedule in place to pay off the bonds from the 2006 referendum. The last of those payments will be made in 2028, through revenue from the 2027 debt service levy. That levy will be more than $5 million.
The debt service levy through 2027 includes both the debt service extension base (blue in the chart) and the outstanding bonds from the 2006 referendum (red in the chart). Beginning with the 2028 levy, the debt service levy only will include the debt service extension base. If the referendum is successful, that debt service extension base will be $5 million (solid black line in the chart), an amount that is less than the 2027 debt service levy.
If the referendum is successful, District 210 would have the ability to increase its debt service extension base to $5 million, beginning with the 2022 levy year. However, District 210 WILL NOT exercise its increased debt service extension base until its previously scheduled bond debt is retired.
At its October meeting, the Board of Education approved a resolution that will prohibit the district from exercising its ability to increase its debt service extension base until its current bond debt is retired. Its final scheduled bond and interest payment on the 2006 referendum bonds will be paid in 2028, with taxes received from the 2027 debt service levy.
At that time, the $5 million debt service extension base will be less than the 2027 debt service levy, which will mean a decrease in the debt service burden for taxpayers.
- There are new housing developments going up in Lemont. Will you have capacity for more students?
At this point, we do expect to have the capacity to welcome the students who would be coming to us from the new housing developments. The 2006 referendum added a three-story classroom addition, which increased our capacity to approximately 2,000 students. With just under 1,400 students right now, we believe we have the classroom space for students from new developments. However, we likely will need expanded space in our cafeteria.
Our aim in securing a sustainable, consistent source of funding is not to increase the amount of space on campus, but to maintain and improve the spaces we do have.
- In your referendum materials on the district website, you’ve only stated why this should be done and the potential positive outcomes that could result. Are there risks or unfavorable outcomes that could result from passage of the referendum? We do not foresee any risks associated with facility improvements, which will provide a safe and comfortable environment for our students and improve the resources that are available to them. We also do not see unfavorable outcomes associated with increasing the debt service extension base as proposed. The annual debt service burden for taxpayers will drop from the 2027 levy to the 2028 levy, and will remain flat after that.
- How much will our taxes go down if this referendum does not pass?
If the referendum question is not approved by voters, the maximum amount District 210 will be able to levy beginning with the 2028 levy is the amount of its debt service extension base. This amount currently is $249,604, and will increase slightly by the time of the 2028 levy.
If the referendum is not approved by voters, we expect this would be the estimated effect for taxpayers (beginning with the 2028 levy year):
Owner of a $400,000 home: A decrease of $38 per month ($1.25 per day)
Owner of a $500,000 home: A decrease of $48 per month ($1.60 per day)
Owner of a $600,000 home: A decrease of $58 per month ($2.00 per day)
- What is the current tax rate for the debt service extension of $249,604 annually, and what will it be if it increases to $5 million?
As the chart above illustrates, the debt service extension base currently represents a small portion of the debt service extension (and accordingly, the debt service tax rate). The most recent debt service tax rate in Cook County was 33 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, and the most recent debt service tax rate in DuPage County was 29 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. In DuPage County, the debt service extension base is responsible for a little more than one cent of that 29 cents.
Our initial communications about the referendum question in August made mention of the tax rate. As we were developing the information to share in email communication, public presentations, and on our website, we determined the annual debt service burden for taxpayers is a more relevant measure.
The tax rate is calculated annually in each county, and is dependent on multiple factors including the community’s EAV (in both Cook and DuPage Counties) and the number of taxpayers contributing to the debt service levy. That makes the rate difficult to predict. For example, if the EAV increases, the rate drops.
Though it is difficult to accurately predict a tax rate, we are confident the rate from the 2028 levy (and those after) will remain at or below the rate from the 2027 levy because our EAV and the number of taxpayers likely will continue to increase, and the amount of the debt service burden will remain flat.
What we can say with absolute confidence, however, is that the total amount of the debt service levy (beginning with the 2028 levy) will be $5 million, and that amount will be less than the 2027 debt service levy.- How long will the $5 million annual debt service extension be in place if this passes?
- How many projects are proposed to be undertaken, what are they, how long will they take complete, what is the cost, etc.?
If the referendum is successful, the available debt service extension base will be $5 million beginning with the 2022 levy year and all subsequent years. However, District 210 WILL NOT exercise its increased debt service extension base until its previously scheduled bond debt is retired.
The district has a master facilities plan that will help inform the number, scope, timing, timelines, and costs for those projects. The projected costs for the projects detailed in the community survey were an accurate estimate for those projects at the time of the survey.
Because a successful referendum will provide a consistent source of revenue for the district as it addresses facility improvements, it will be able to address repairs and plan for improvements over time. This will help shorten the timeline for repaying bonds, which will result in less interest on the bonds.
- Why does the information on your website talk about the Commons and the Field House when those projects were lower on the community survey?
- Is there a plan to do lower priority projects?
We made mention of these areas because they are examples of issues in the building that we expect will need to be addressed in the future. All of the projects in the community survey are potential projects.
When community survey participants were rating their support of projects, it is logical that some scored higher than others. However, nine of the ten potential projects in the community survey had community support of 56 percent or better. Four had support of 70 percent or greater, three had support of 60-65 percent, and two more had support between 56-58 percent.
- How will the projects undertaken be determined?
- Who decides what to do, and when?
- Are projects outside of those included in the survey possible?The community survey provided valuable information for district administrators and the Board of Education. Updated classrooms and STEM spaces were clearly a priority for survey respondents, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, political ideology, or connection to the school. If the referendum is successful, completing these projects in a cost-effective manner will be prioritized.
The master facilities plan was developed in 2018 and is an evolving document that is updated at least annually. Additional projects will be added to that plan over time. District administrators and the Board of Education work collaboratively on the master facilities plan, and that plan will guide which projects are done, as well as the timing of the projects. Community input, as well as the advice and expertise of DLA Architects, inform the facilities plan.
- What other funding options are possible for these projects?
- Are there more than two potential ways (other than a debt service extension base increase or infrastructure bonds)?
The debt service extension base and infrastructure bonds are the two ways to issue debt for major infrastructure projects. Funding for multi-million dollar projects is not available from the district’s non-debt service funds (i.e., the Education Fund).
It would not be fiscally responsible for the district to fully drain its fund balance reserves, but the district does plan to use a portion of those reserves as it begins to address some of our facility needs and improve our infrastructure.
- When will the renovations start?
- Will you wait until 2028 or will you be able to start before that?
The district will not need to wait until its current debt is retired to start any projects, but it will wait to exercise its increased debt service extension base until that debt is retired. If the referendum is successful, the district will utilize some of its fund balances to begin some of the projects.
- How will inflation and interest rates impact costs?
- How accurate are the costs that were included in the community survey?
Because a successful referendum will provide a consistent source of revenue for the district as it addresses facility improvements, it will be able to address repairs and plan for improvements over time and will allow the district to make adjustments more easily. This will help shorten the timeline for repaying bonds, which will result in less interest on the bonds.
The projected costs for the projects detailed in the community survey were an accurate estimate for those projects at the time of the survey.
- What is the expectation for educational outcomes improvement (standardized test scores, scholarships, acceptance rate into universities/trade training programs, etc.) as a result of passage of the debt service extension base increase?
We consistently score above the state average in standardized test scores, and we fully expect to continue to do so. We will not make any prediction in terms of test scores, scholarships, or acceptance rates for colleges or trade training programs. We do not make a product, where efficiency, success rate and sales are easily predicted.
Each of our 1,300-plus students comes to school each day with a unique set of abilities and different learning styles and capabilities. Each has his or her own stressors: some may be dependent on the school for two meals a day, some may be struggling with a loss in their lives, and some may be navigating a difficult relationship with their parents. Any of these factors can influence how a student performs on a test on a particular day.
We are responsible for providing our students with a safe and comfortable environment in which they can learn, and making available to them the resources that will help them have the greatest chance of success in the next steps of their lives, whether that be attending college, entering the workforce, serving in the military, or learning a trade.
Through this referendum, we are asking for taxpayers to maintain the support they are providing the district. This will allow us the opportunity to provide the best environment and resources for our students, and students - regardless of their abilities or future plans - are more likely both to be engaged and to be successful in that type of environment than one that is in disrepair.
- Explain how passage of the debt service extension base increase will lead to better educational outcomes/outcome improvement for students.There are many sources of research that indicate a positive relationship between the school environment and student achievement. If students are not comfortable at school, they are less likely to be engaged, and for some students, less likely to attend.
Lemont High School is our students’ home away from home. Much like our students’ families work hard to ensure their homes are safe and comfortable for their children, we work diligently to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our students. We share this responsibility with each taxpayer, regardless if they have students at Lemont High School, and understand how important it is for us to be responsible stewards of taxpayer revenue.