Urbana schools considering another funding measure for new buildings

District would have to cover 39 percent of $60.5M price tag.

Urbana City Schools Board of Education members are considering seeking voter approval in November of a funding measure to build new schools.

Superintendent Charles Thiel says a majority of the board is leaning toward a property tax measure.

The estimated price tag is $60.5 million, with the district’s share totaling 39 percent — about $23.5 million. The remainder of the money would be coming from the state.

Thiel indicated the current plans call for a building to house pre-kindergarten through 8th grade classes on district-owned property on Community Drive and the adjacent land on Boyce Street, plus demolishing a portion of Urbana High School and constructing a new building to replace it on the current site. The existing high school gym and auditorium would be retained, along with the 1897 “castle” structure on “The Hill” site, to be used as the central office, meeting space and for other purposes.

Thiel said board is still considering three options: A property tax levy, an income tax or a combination of a one-half percent earned income tax plus whatever property tax millage would be necessary to raise the needed revenue.

He explained an income tax would be more cumbersome to administer and voters previously rejected a request for such a tax. The property tax, he said, would be paid by more people and businesses and would provide a more stable amount of money, especially in economic downturns.

The board is looking at beginning the required process of placing a measure on the November ballot during a meeting July 14 or 15, with another session later this month to finalize the necessary steps prior to the Aug. 6 deadline.

Thiel said one question that has been frequently asked by residents is about the future of current school buildings that would be abandoned through the project.

“That is yet to be determined,” he said.

Options would include selling the structures or demolishing them and selling the cleared properties.

Thiel also pointed out the district’s Facilities Committee — comprised of about 30 local people — met from January through May to develop the plan. They also visited area school districts that have built new schools.

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