Building Questions & Answers

****Updated November 28, 2016****

Questions/answers on this page are arranged in no particular order, and are largely arranged as received. Tied to the note above, some of the answers related to timelines and costs may be changing as we move forward.


Q&A for new plans for building construction/renovation

****Note: The Board has officially put the building project on hold until the June 2017 Board meeting, after the new Board is seated following April elections.****



****The answers below were for the building project as it was described up to the December 2016 Board meeting.****

Questions Answers
1. What is the Board's current stance on building renovation/new construction? The Board is leaning in the direction of building a new high school building in Minonk and a new East building in Wenona. The Building Committee is now putting details to this direction.
2. Why are you considering/deciding to build new buildings or additions?  a. The projected cost of repairing the old buildings, particularly East and the high school, is astronomical, especially when the required storm shelters and all grandfathered code work is taken into account, as well as the new requirement for FEMA-rated storm shelters and sprinkler systems. 

b. If the current buildings are renovated, not only will the cost be very high, but they will also still be old buildings subject to the continued problems of older structures. At the end of 30 years, the span of time in which the Board envisions bringing the district together under one roof, the buildings of the district will be approximately 105-115 years old, with only further repair and continued structural and infrastructure degradation. 
3. Does the cost of building the new buildings include associated expenses? a. When the cost of constructing new buildings is published, the Board plans to have estimated costs of all associated work such as infrastructure, driveways, parking lots, necessary outbuildings, etc. included. The cost of removing the old buildings and cost of any renovations of older portions necessary, if that is the path chosen, will also be included. 

b. Estimations will also have to be made on the cost of land, if that is necessary.
4. What will happen to the old buildings once they are no longer needed? The Board has talked about this to some extent, and the current thought seems to be to raze whatever is not going to be used. Representatives from Minonk, Toluca and Wenona have all indicated that if a building in the town is closed, they would prefer that the building be razed instead of being left as a potential eyesore.
5. How is the community to pay for this? a. Regardless of whether repair/renovation or new construction are chosen, the only mechanism currently available to the district to pay for the project(s) is property taxes. 

b. There are other potential mechanisms, although there is currently nothing in the works to bring those together. Two potential mechanisms are the County Facilities Sales Tax, which could raise nearly $500,000 annually for the district to put toward either building repair or replacement, and the state of Illinois capital projects fund which has operated rather haphazardly lately. 

c. Another possible resource, although very uncertain due to the fact that it is a competitive grant, is to apply for a grant from FEMA which might pay for a large percentage of the required storm shelter(s).
6. What can a typical resident expect as far as a potential tax increase? a. That depends on several factors which will not be fully known until an actual project, whether new construction or repair/renovation, is ready to move forward. Factors include: the EAV of the district at the time; available state/federal grants and low-cost loans; whether CFST has been passed in one or more counties in which the district lies; the actual cost of the project to be undertaken; and the EAV of a taxpayer's property.

b. On a test run in November 2015, with all of known information at that time, and figuring on an $18,000,000 construction basis, taxes could increase by $0.78-$0.88 per mil. Again, the final data by which this rate would be figured will not be known until the time of bonding, and is affected by all of the factors noted in (a).

c. Please note also that the renovation costs to the district, if that route were eventually chosen, would require a similar tax rate increase, but would leave the district with old buildings.
7. Are there are any sales taxes that we are not currently imposing within our district taxing body that we can assess? Yes, but only those which can be approved by referendum. The CFST is available, but first must be recommended by school Boards representing 50%+ of the students in a county, and then must be passed by a majority of those voting in a county. This is already passed in Livingston County, but we receive little money from it as we have only a couple of students residing in Livingston County.
8. What is the long term projection of students within the communities? a. The long term projection is of a seriously decreased student population. Enrollment has fallen 18.6% since the fall of 2006. The trend line over the last 8 years is consistently and steadily downhill, with a projected enrollment of around 1,000 in 2020. Extrapolating that trend into the 2040s brings the population well under 1,000 and likely in the 600-800 range. 

b. In any effort to gauge future enrollment, anything can change at any time, as the district currently also has a high transiency rate that may increase or decrease, employment trends may change in either direction based on both local and regional economies, and birth rates can jump or lower at any time.
9. What is the process for designing any building that will go to referendum? a. The district has retained both Farnsworth architects and River City Construction to shepherd this process. Farnsworth will handle the overall design process. River City Construction will be the construction manager who additionally looks out for the district's best interests in terms of costs, veracity of building excellent, and overall bottom line pricing juxtaposed with success of the process.

b. Through the services offered by Farnsworth and River City, the community will be invited to engage regarding the process. This will be opened to the public as River City comes on board and works with the Board and Farnsworth to set a process in place.
10. Why did the Board find it necessary to hire a Construction Manager? Among many, 

a. Savings on the project that will repay the CM fees and more

b. Centralized control of bids and subcontractor contracts

c. Provides more control over work, with onsite visits from experienced builders/contractors to oversee work and redirect when work is done improperly or incorrectly

d. Materials costs are more open to negotiation

e. Estimations of costs from architect are "fact" checked by the CM firm, with the best interests of the district in mind
11. When does the Board intend to have the referendum on the election ballot? - updated July 25, 2016 a. The Board must adopt a resolution regarding the ballot language and submit to the county clerks in early January of 2017, by current law. The exact date will be determined soon.

b. This would put the ballot question to voters in the April 4, 2017 general election.

c. Please note that this was a change in plans. The Board had planned to have the referendum on the ballot in November 2016, but needed more time to adequately review and prepare the design and ballot language to appropriately engage the community.
12. If the state of Illinois tells the district that it must repair buildings at a very large dollar amount, can the district and community tell the state where to "stick it"? Can't we fight the state? That seems like a good option at times. However, the state of Illinois enforces its rulings through the Regional Office of Education, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Fire Marshal's Office, and other regulatory agencies. Any one of those agencies can close part or all of a building for failing to comply with orders from the state. Our neighboring school district, Midland, is a prime example of what can happen if criteria are not met. It has also happened in other places. For example, Dallas City High School had the second floor condemned in the 1980s and the former Southern High School in Stronghurst had the second floor condemned in the early 2000s, with the state refusing to allow students to be present in those locations.
13. Wouldn't it cost less to repair buildings rather than build new ones? Seems like a good idea. However, there are several factors that make this not necessarily true.

a. The repairs that must be made on both East and the high school would most likely cost more than 50% of the replacement value of the buildings. At that point, ADA requirements that have been grandfathered for many years would now be required to be repaired, such as a minimum of 32" doors with 32" clear depths of entry and exit, fully handicapped accessible restrooms, fully accessible buildings including elevators and/or ramps where necessary (there are several places in the high school in particular that would require such access), and handicapped accessible entryways. Sprinkler systems would have to be installed. And the new FEMA-rated storm shelter requirement would kick in. All of these carry immense costs.

b. During the time that the buildings were being repaired, students would have to be placed somewhere, as the repairs would likely take 12-18 months in each building. We do not have enough space for all of East at the HS or the reverse, so students would have to be placed in temporary housing for a year or more. The costs of doing this could run very high. 











Q&A for original 30-year vision of central location - no longer in use (was last updated on November 23, 2015)

Questions Answers
1. Why did the Board choose a 30-year vision? The Board is considering not only the current status of the district, students, and buildings, but also looking down the line 1) to assess the needs of the district far beyond the time that any of the current Board of Education are on the Board; and 2) the length of time that will be necessary to complete an overhaul of the district structures.
2. Why are you considering/deciding to build new buildings? (Corollary questions: Why was building one building in one central location chosen over any other options? What were the pros and cons of each of the choices?) a. The projected cost of repairing the old buildings, particularly East and the high school, is astronomical, especially when the required storm shelters and all grandfathered code work is taken into account, as well as the new requirement for FEMA-rated storm shelters. 

b. If the current buildings are repaired, not only will the cost be very high, but they will also still be old buildings subject to the continued problems of older structures. At the end of 30 years, the span of time in which the Board envisions bringing the district together under one roof, the buildings of the district will be approximately 105-115 years old, with only further repair and continued structural and infrastructure degradation. 

c. The district is currently spending well above its annual revenue for building maintenance. Maintaining four buildings has been and will continue to be a severe drain on the district’s budget. 

d. The Board is envisioning not only the school district of next year or even the next decade, but also the school district that will exist when the current students have children and even grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the district, which includes severely declining enrollment in the rural Midwest. Declining enrollment is a common factor in many rural Midwest communities, and there is nothing on the horizon that would slow the decline in our communities. As district enrollment continues to decline, the need for multiple buildings will decline with it. 

e. As a result of (c) and (d), the Board considered the possibility of eliminating one or more buildings in one or more towns and building replacements in other towns. The fundamental fairness factor of “which do we choose and why” was an element in bringing all together in one location. 

f. Bringing the district together at one site provides a number of efficiencies that are not available in multiple buildings: reduced staffing for custodial, secretarial, cafeteria, and even teaching and administrative staff. A centralized location also allows the district to provide a more efficient centralized transportation hub instead of the three-way program currently offered.
3. Does the cost of building the new buildings include associated expenses? a. When the cost of constructing new buildings is published, the Board plans to have estimated costs of all associated work such as infrastructure, driveways, parking lots, necessary outbuildings, etc. included. The cost of removing the old buildings, if that is the path chosen, will also be included. 

b. Estimations will also have to be made on the cost of land.
4. What will happen to the old buildings once they are no longer needed? There is no answer to that question yet. However, representatives from Minonk, Toluca and Wenona have all indicated that if a building in the town is closed, they would prefer that the building be razed instead of being left as a potential eyesore.
5. How is the community to pay for this? a. Regardless of whether repair/renovation or new construction are chosen, the only mechanism currently available to the district to pay for the project(s) is property taxes. 

b. There are other potential mechanisms, although there is currently nothing in the works to bring those together. Two potential mechanisms are the County Facilities Sales Tax, which could raise nearly $500,000 annually for the district to put toward either building repair or replacement, and the state of Illinois capital projects fund which has operated rather haphazardly lately. 

c. Another possible resource, although very uncertain due to the fact that it is a competitive grant, is to apply for a grant from FEMA which might pay for a large percentage of the required storm shelter(s).
6. What can a typical resident expect as far as a potential tax increase? a. That depends on several factors which will not be fully known until an actual project, whether new construction or repair/renovation, is ready to move forward. Factors include: the EAV of the district at the time; available state/federal grants and low-cost loans; whether CFST has been passed in one or more counties in which the district lies; the actual cost of the project to be undertaken; and the EAV of a taxpayer's property.

b. At this time, with all of today's known information, and figuring on an $18,000,000 construction basis, taxes could increase by $0.78-$0.88 per mil. Again, the final data by which this rate would be figured will not be known until the time of bonding, and is affected by all of the factors noted in (a).

c. Please note also that the renovation costs to the district, if that route were eventually chosen, would require a similar tax rate increase, but would leave the district with old buildings.
7. Are there are any sales taxes that we are not currently imposing within our district taxing body that we can assess? Yes, but only those which can be approved by referendum. The CFST is available, but first must be recommended by school Boards representing 50%+ of the students in a county, and then must be passed by a majority of those voting in a county. This is already passed in Livingston County, but we receive little money from it as we have only a couple of students residing in Livingston County.
8. What is the local economic impact of each of the communities not having a school within their towns? a. Unknown. Our local populations have been shrinking, and business has been reduced even as the schools continue to exist in each community. Therefore, there is no way to formulaic or scientific method to calculate the impact of such a change. 

b. An additional, and very strong, factor is the surrounding economy. Our towns are, in large part, bedroom communities to Peoria, Bloomington/Normal, LaSalle, and Pontiac, among others. As such influential employers as Caterpillar and Mitsubishi continue to shed jobs or close, the impact is felt heavily on our small towns.
9. Will this decrease property value? Unknown. See answer to (8).
10. Could we lose property tax dollars over time because of this? Unknown. We already know that increases in assessments in farm property in our area are slowing due to the new formula approach used by the state, but growth in EAV has not been stopped yet for the district overall. Marshall County has certainly slowed or has even had a couple of years of backwards movement on over assessed value, but both LaSalle and Woodford County have seen continued and relatively steady growth. The balance of relatively steady growth on all properties, assuming it continues, compared to any decreases in EAV due to movement of a school is unknown.
11. Would building on site or renovating the existing schools help to stabilize property value and serve as an anchor and a commitment that there are schools within each of the communities so that businesses and families are attracted to move to the Fieldcrest district? a. There are many assumptions in such a question. The communities of the Fieldcrest school district are impacted by events far beyond the borders of the district or town boundaries, such as layoffs and closures in such businesses as Caterpillar and Mitsubishi. These events will have far reaching consequences for our districts. 

b. Families tend to look not just for location of schools but also for overall quality of schools. School buildings which are 100 years old simply do not have the infrastructure to be up-to-date educationally, and are not attractive for potential business interests who might be looking at our communities. There are those, including members of the Board, who believe that our district would be just as and possibly even more attractive to potential residents if our schools were up-to-date, both structurally and in such areas as lab spaces and classrooms, and physically attractive.
12. Were local elected officials in agreement that having a school in one centralized location is better for their local economies than having the schools remain within their town? Representatives of the Board spoke to representatives of Minonk, Toluca and Wenona. While none of the representatives had any desire to see a building closed in their respective towns, the general comment was made that IF one was going to be closed then it would be better to have a common campus instead of picking and choosing one or two towns out of the three to be impacted, whatever that impact might be. This is the fairness factor noted in a previous question and response.
13. Who would respond should there be a need for law enforcement? Would having a school within each of the local communities allow for a faster response time? That would be an issue that would have to be worked out once a location was determined.
14. As part of the 30 year vision, is there planning to ensure that with the new structures there will be adequate funding and invest in the new building? a. The cost of maintaining a new building in one location, in the long run, would be less costly than maintaining four buildings in three towns. Efficiencies in infrastructure systems, reductions in staffing due to being one location, and the ability to reduce space to that which will likely be needed by future students of the district would all contribute to less costly facilities and the ability to stay up on future maintenance and repairs than either fully repairing the current buildings or building new but separate buildings in the current towns.

b. In addition, the costs of repaying bonds for new buildings will come out of a different fund and different tax levy segment than the costs for maintenance of buildings. Because maintenance costs would be reduced sharply with new buildings, the current amount levied (adjusted for changes in the economy and value of the dollar) should be sufficient to provide adequate upkeep to the buildings of the district at that time.
15. What is the long term projection of students within the communities? a. The long term projection is of a seriously decreased student population. Enrollment has fallen 18.6% since the fall of 2006. The trend line over the last 8 years is consistently and steadily downhill, with a projected enrollment of around 1,000 in 2020. Extrapolating that trend into the 2040s brings the population well under 1,000 and likely in the 600-800 range. 

b. In any effort to gauge future enrollment, anything can change at any time, as the district currently also has a high transiency rate that may increase or decrease, employment trends may change in either direction based on both local and regional economies, and birth rates can jump or lower at any time.
16. Why did you waste time with a survey if the Board’s mind was made up? a. The survey noted that the instrument was to be used alongside of other information the Board gathered. It was only one tool, not the only tool. 

b. The survey returned less than 10% of the registered voters in the school district. That means that we do not have a gauge on what the other 90%+ of registered voters are thinking. With that in mind, we have to use the survey as only one indicator among many. 

c. The survey returns showed a majority of responders wanted buildings to remain in each town and to repair what we have. However, a significant number of respondents wrote in that they would like to see a centralized campus. There was no option for this, yet many wrote in this approach.
17. Does this 30 year vision imply that such a centralized campus will not be built until we are nearing that timeline? Is there a time frame in which actual construction will be taking place? a. The upper grades project is projected to start in the next few years, including a likely referendum in the next year. That process plus paying off bonds for that construction would take approximately 25 years, at which point the second phase would kick in. 

b. At this time, there are two phases projected, although funding and other factors might force a rethinking of that structure somewhere down the line. Any decisions made now are subject to review by any future Board. 

c. The Board is doing its due diligence to review what a complete campus now would cost, as compared to costs of two phases. At the same time, funding everything right now must be considered alongside spreading the costs out over two phases. 
18. What is the process for designing any building that will go to referendum? a. The district has retained both Farnsworth architects and River City Construction to shepherd this process. Farnsworth will handle the overall design process. River City Construction will be the construction manager who additionally looks out for the district's best interests in terms of costs, veracity of building excellent, and overall bottom line pricing juxtaposed with success of the process.

b. Through the services offered by Farnsworth and River City, the community will be invited to engage regarding the process. This will be opened to the public as River City comes on board and works with the Board and Farnsworth to set a process in place.
19. Why did the Board find it necessary to hire a Construction Manager? Among many, 

a. Savings on the project that will repay the CM fees and more

b. Centralized control of bids and subcontractor contracts

c. Provides more control over work, with onsite visits from experienced builders/contractors to oversee work and redirect when work is done improperly or incorrectly

d. Materials costs are more open to negotiation

e. Estimations of costs from architect are "fact" checked by the CM firm, with the best interests of the district in mind
20. When does the Board intend to have the referendum on the election ballot? a. The Board must adopt a resolution regarding the ballot language and submit to the county clerks by December 28, 2015, by current law.

b. This would put the ballot question to voters in the March 2016 primary election.
21. What is considered to be a "central" location to the district, based on the 30-year vision? a. The current geographical "center" of the district is very close to Rutland, depending on exactly where the measurements are taken.

b. "Central", however, does not necessarily mean "exact center". Several factors will be in play: amount of land available, cost, accessibility, availability or lack thereof of utilities, requirements to prepare land for building of buildings, etc. "Central" is more of a reference to "closer to the center" of the district than current arrangements.
22. Would all facilities be moved to this more central location? That is the current plan. Not only school buildings, but also the bus garage/center, athletic fields, and any other school-related facilities are ultimately planned for this location or other locations very close to the centralized campus.
23. If the state of Illinois tells the district that it must repair buildings at a very large dollar amount, can the district and community tell the state where to "stick it"? Can't we fight the state? That seems like a good option at times. However, the state of Illinois enforces its rulings through the Regional Office of Education, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Fire Marshal's Office, and other regulatory agencies. Any one of those agencies can close part or all of a building for failing to comply with orders from the state. Dallas City High School had the second floor condemned in the 1980s and the former Southern High School in Stronghurst had the second floor condemned in the early 2000s, with the state refusing to allow students to be present in those locations.
24. Wouldn't it cost less to repair buildings rather than build new ones? Seems like a good idea. However, there are several factors that make this not necessarily true.

a. The repairs that must be made on both East and the high school would most likely cost more than 50% of the replacement value of the buildings. At that point, ADA requirements that have been grandfathered for many years would now be required to be repaired, such as a minimum of 32" doors with 32" clear depths of entry and exit, fully handicapped accessible restrooms, fully accessible buildings including elevators and/or ramps where necessary (there are several places in the high school in particular that would require such access), and handicapped accessible entryways. Sprinkler systems would have to be installed. And the new FEMA-rated storm shelter requirement would kick in. All of these carry immense costs.

b. During the time that the buildings were being repaired, students would have to be placed somewhere, as the repairs would likely take 12-18 months in each building. We do not have enough space for all of East at the HS or the reverse, so students would have to be placed in temporary housing for a year or more. The costs of doing this could run very high.