MVTHS on the move? I hope not (Part two)

Q Is the new school smaller than the old one?
A NO…AND it has more efficient use of space. According to the architect, there are 15,000 sq. ft. of wasted space in the old school – equivalent to the size of the old gym! There will be better utilitization of space and less duplication of expensive equipment in the new school.

* Heat & cool ONE building instead of ELEVEN. Plus, 4 old buildings don’t even have central air.
* The new school can be used comfortably for school and community activities year round–not just during cooler months.
* Classes using the same materials will be near each other.
* The design of the new school makes it possible to reshape curriculum to meet the needs of high school students in the 21st Century, e.g. career academies that better prepare kids for a job or college after high school.
* The new school’s gym will seat 2,500 instead of the current 1,500.

First off, it’s “utilization”, not “utilitization”.

Less wasted space? Probably. Most of those buildings were designed a long time ago and some weren’t intended to be used as a school. Less duplication of expensive equipment? Where? MVTHS was severely lacking expensive anything when I was there eleven years ago.

How about “Heat and cool the same space”? That is what you are doing, unless you are incorrect about it being the same size in the previous statement. No central air? Oh no! Um, I grew up without A/C until I was 21. In the 4 years I went to MVTHS, those same 4 buildings were not air conditioned. Why is this an emergency?

The school can be used anyway, but this is the choice of people planning events.

When I was at MVTHS, classes using the same materials were close together. Science classes were 99% in G, shop classes in F, English/speech in B/C, and so on. How is the new one differently planned?

Um, the “curriculum” can be “reshaped” at any time. “Curriculum” is generally used to describe the class structure or course of study.

The new gym is being built to handle DOUBLE the capacity of the students. Why? I like sports and think they are important in the school experience. I DO NOT think that the cost of building a gym DOUBLE the size of what is needed is cost-effective in any way. Unless I am mistaken, bigger gym = bigger cost. Is that incorrect?

Q Where will the new school be located?
A * It will be on South 34th Street, just off Veteran’s Drive, across the road from Lincoln Park on donated land.
* Utilities and a new baseball/soccer complex already exist just across South 34th Street.
* The football stadium will be next to the new school, with space for practice fields too.

At 34th and Veterans? With only Veterans as the main access road? With a new interchange about eight blocks away? With a new hospital being built in the near future as well?

Will the school be assuming the maintenance of the baseball/soccer complex? If not, does it meet IHSA specifications? If not, how much will that cost?

The football stadium is already next to the school with a practice field.

Q Will the new school be safer than the old one?
A The proposed location is not located by a jail, a salvage yard, and a railroad where trains pass daily carrying hazardous material. The new site…

* …Will have security control – there are over 50 doors into–and out of–the old school’s 11 buildings.
* …Will be a closed campus, allowing for better student supervision.
* …Will have better exterior lighting to enhance security.
* …Will have controlled entry points with locking devices to keep out uninvited visitors.

The proposed location will be located near a hospital, interstate exchange, and have limited access via roads. There are also vehicles traveling up and down the interstate daily carrying toxic and dangerous chemicals. How many vehicular accidents are there compared to train derailments?

How many doors will be at the new school? Hopefully plenty considering emergency exits required for safety.

More student supervision? With all of the students crammed into hallways and rushing in the same building to get to their class? It’s currently minor madness, but with everyone in the same building it only stands to become complete chaos. Supervision is achieved by having supervisors, not by locking down a place to resemble a prison.

If the current campus is not lit, add lights. They are cheaper than the new school.

Controlled entry points? Sounds like prison. Locking devices? Don’t the current doors have these? I believe they are called “locks”. “Uninvited visitors” will find a way to get in if they desire. If I have the reckless abandon, I can get into the White House, I just probably wouldn’t leave in the best of shape, if at all. Teenagers are very resourceful and can likely bypass any “locking devices” or “controlled entry points” you come up with, especially if it involves technology. Just give them a reason, and 20 minutes with Google.

Q How will the old campus be used?
A The school will not operate on two sites. All students & staff will move to the new site on South 34th Street.

The old buildings are not currently targeted for demolition. Instead, several ideas have been offered that are not as demanding as daily student use.

* A rec complex that utilizes the ball fields as well as the gym
* City departmental offices
* Incubator site for small business

This should read “We have no clue, and wash our hands of this property once we get our shiny new toy.” No cost-recovery has been imagined by the district. They merely want to get a new shiny building that is pretty, and run away.

Q What is the proposed cost of the new school?
A The proposed cost is $57.715 million. Under this plan…

* …Each teacher will have his/her own classroom to accommodate the current curriculum for their students.
* …Space is included for four additional classrooms to address possible expansion of the curriculum and student body.

Don’t the teachers already have their own classrooms? They did when I was there, and there are less students now.

So, again we are building bigger than what is needed. Expansion may be needed, but why should we build it “just in case”? Perhaps we would be better suited by utilizing a design that could easily be added on to or modified if the need arises in the future, instead of building it now on a whim.

Q How will the new school be funded?
A The new school willl be funded in three ways:

* State funds for NEW school construction.
* $800,000 annually (to support approximately $12 million of principal in bonds) from the City of Mt. Vernon, only for NEW school construction.
* The balance will be raised through local property taxes for a bond not to exceed $16 million used only for NEW school construction.

IF the state makes those funds available. They may not even provide them.

The city will pay $24 MILLION dollars over 30 years to pay to prop-up the school district. The city did not and will not ask the residents of Mount Vernon about this measure. The item was brought to city council to be put on the ballot, but councilman Walker said it would “confuse” voters. He should have abstained as his brother-in-law is employed by the ONLY ARCHITECT on this project. Shirilyn Holt agreed and said it should not be on the ballot. She SHOULD HAVE ABSTAINED as well since she is an EMPLOYEE of the school district. If I remember correctly, this matter was not even brought to a vote before the council. Also, I have yet to hear anyone on council deny that this event/discussion/non-vote was discussed and/or planned beforehand. Even the person I asked directly on the phone would not answer with a yes or no. That person just switched the answer around. That person is a good politician.

The school district raising taxes to build a new school… Surprisingly I’m sure if you’ve read this far, I don’t have any issue with at all. They are the responsible taxing body, and we do need renovation or new construction. This is how it should be done.

Q How will property taxes affect me?
A Tax impact on individual homeowner:

If a $16 million building referendum passes in April, examples of the additional cost per year to property taxpayers who live in Mt. Vernon High School #201 can be found below.

The tax will not be levied UNTIL State funds are released.

Fair Market Value State Equalized Value Annual Tax Increase Monthly Increase
25,000 8,333 28.30 2.36
50,000 16,667 56.61 4.72
90,000 30,000 101.90 8.49
150,000 50,000 169.83 14.15

In practical terms, your cost would amount to the price of a soda per day or a carryout pizza each month.

For a $25k home, that’s not too bad. ~$900 over 30 years is not that big of a deal. Unfortunately, I know no one with that low of a valued home. ~$1500 for the more likely valued home, still isn’t horrible when it is spread out over 30 years. Unfortunately, this does not include the extra tax you will pay at retail or for your gas when the city raises taxes to pay its twenty-four million to the school district.

Q Will the new school have a closed campus?
A Yes, the campus will be closed, with a comfortable, modern dining area to accommodate the students and staff. This will reduce lunchtime truancy, tardiness, traffic accidents, and substance abuse that can occur when students leave campus for lunch as they have at the old school.

The prison-campus may reduce all of these matters as they relate to the lunch hour, but will it improve matters overall? What is this assumed “substance abuse”? Can it be proven? What about traffic before and after school that will be bottle-necked to one road instead of the 4+ that are available now? What about the additional traffic that will be created by the new hospital? What about the additional traffic generated by the interstate exchange?

Q Aren’t we still paying for the new jail?
A We pay NO PROPERTY TAX for the new jail. The only tax that is collected for that purpose is a 1/2 percent sales tax. That means that for every $100 a person spends in Jefferson County, 50 cents supports the jail. By January 2009, that rate falls to 1/4 percent, or 25 cents on $100. This tax is not collected on food or medicine.

Another way to put this is, “Yes, we are still paying for the new jail.” In addition, the person who wrote this is hoping that you don’t recall that the County Board has the option to renew this tax if they so desire. With the jail bleeding money, they will likely have to renew the tax and keep us paying it to keep the jail running. Just because we don’t pay a property tax doesn’t mean we don’t pay a tax. It’s about like saying even though I cut off your leg, you still have two hands.

Q Why do we need a bond referendum?
A The old school is deteriorating rapidly; the cost of renovating old buildings is not traditionally funded by the State of Illinois construction grants through the Capital Development Board; and money for NEW construction is expected to be available this year. We must pass a referendum in order to get money from the state and the City of Mt. Vernon for a new high school.

Deteriorating rapidly by whose measure? “Not traditionally funded…”, does that mean they do fund it? “The State rarely funds renovation. It has a lower priority than new construction.‘ So, the state does fund it, but you are spinning it pretty well so that we will think they don’t? Good job. We need the referendum because of tax caps designed to stop this kind of wild and loose money spending.

Q How does MVTHS’ tax rate compare to that of other high schools in Illinois?
A Of 25 high schools that were contacted around the state of Illinois, MVTHS’ tax rate is second to the lowest. Only Anna-Jonesboro is lower.

How about a direct comparison to 25 high schools in SURROUNDING COUNTIES? I could find 100 districts that tax higher than district 201 probably, but they also are not in our area. I bet Chicago schools and suburban schools have a higher tax rate, but they also have a higher income to balance it out. WHO WERE THE SCHOOLS CONTACTED???

Q What happens if we don’t pass the April 17 referendum?
A We would get no state money; no money from the city; and no land would be donated. OUR state tax money will go to build another community’s NEW high school.

We would get no state money because the district 201 board REFUSES to consider renovation and has no backup plan. Good job guys! There SHOULDN’T be any money from the city. Mount Vernon should not have to prop-up the school district. It’s not OUR money, it is the state’s money to do with as it pleases. There is no guarantee that they will even release any money for school construction at this time.

Q Isn’t the new school located on a flood plain?
A NO! The new school site has been completely examined. According to the architect, it has NO DRAINAGE problems and is NOT located on a flood plain!

Has the architect given us a written guarantee of this? Is the architect going to reimburse the district if there ARE drainage problems? Even during construction? Oh, and “flood plain” is a zoning description. There are properties all over this town that were once zoned as “flood plain” and are now zoned as “residential” or “business”. It just depends on if you get the council to change the zoning for you, which they did in this case.