November 8 school facility referendum

According to the NG, the Nov 8th ballot will have wording for the school facility referendum as follows:

“Shall the Board of Education of Champaign Community Unit School District Number 4, Champaign County, Illinois, alter, repair and equip the Central High School Building, build and equip additions thereto, and acquire and improve the site thereof; improve facilities at Franklin Middle School, Spalding Park, and McKinley Field; alter, repair and equip the Centennial High School Building and build and equip additions thereto; demolish the existing Dr. Howard Elementary School Building and build and equip a new Dr. Howard Elementary School Building on that site; alter, repair and equip the South Side Elementary School Building and build and equip an addition thereto; alter, repair and equip the International Prep Academy Building and build and equip additions thereto; alter, repair and equip the Edison Middle School Building and build and equip an addition thereto; and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $183,400,000 for the purpose of paying costs thereof?”


It’s a mouthfull. So I wanted to take some time to break it down a little. If you strip out the details, the ballot question basically says “shall the Unit 4 BOE take out a loan (or several loans) not to exceed a sum total of $183.4 million?” The rest is “legally required” language that tells voters what this money will specifically be used for.


This grid groups and organizes the proposed changes as a way of visualizing the ballot question:

School Building Additions Site
Central alter, repair, equip build, equip acquire, improve
Centennial alter, repair, equip build, equip
Franklin improve*
Edison alter, repair, equip build, equip
Dr. Howard demolish, build, equip
South Side alter, repair, equip build, equip
IPA alter, repair, equip build, equip

*For Franklin, the School District is proposing to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Park District to “share” facilities at Spalding Park. “Add and renovate track and athletic facilities for Central.”


I grouped the schools high schools first, then middle schools, then elementary schools. For me, I found this easier to chew on and digest (compare and contrast).

What exactly is being altered, repaired, equipped, built, acquired or improved? To start chipping away at that question, you can read the recommended “schemes” that came out of the Tier II committee, or read Nicole Lafond’s summary of the board’s final decision (and deliberation) in her August 15th article:


But to spell it out more clearly, here is how the $208.4 million breaks down.

UPDATED with information from the Fact Sheet.

School Work Total
Central -Exterior Upgrades
-Interior Renovations (75% of total square footage)
-Three Story Academic Addition (with CTE)
-Gymnasium Addition (3 courts and expandable to future fieldhouse/LOWER LEVEL lockers & support)
-PE Fields/Competition Soccer (turf)/Competition Softball (sod)
Centennial -Exterior Upgrades
-Interior Renovations (75% of total square footage)
-Two Story Academic Addition
-Cafeteria/Administration Addition
-CTE spaces
-Gymnasium Addition (2 courts/expandable to future fieldhouse)
-Football Field (turf)
Franklin fields, McKinley Field, Spalding Park -Competition Baseball (sod)
-Practice Baseball (sod)
-Additional Tennis Courts
Dr. Howard -Demolition of Existing School
-Three Story Replacement School facility
South Side -Exterior Upgrades
-Complete Renovation with Health Life Safety Upgrades
IPA -Interior Renovations: general minor renovations
-Addition: Cafeteria expansion, Gym, Library
-Secure Entry: Renovate to provide secure school vestibule entry
Grand Total  $208.4M

As stated several times, the Nov 8th referendum does not address all the needs of the district; it is expected that the district will have to return to the voters for another referendum somewhere down the road.

Some items that I have not been able to find (I will update this post as I find them):

  • A detailed breakdown of proposed projects for each school
  • A final prioritization of all projects (HLS, 10-year Capital Plan, Tier II recommendations)
  • Plans to pay for future maintenance (such a plan is talked about at board meetings, so I believe one exists)
  • A cross-reference of which HLS and 10-year Capital projects are not covered by this referendum




16 Responses to “November 8 school facility referendum”

  1. Kathy R. Says:

    I’ll share here what I emailed to Charles on 8/23/16 in response to his questions:

    “A summary of referendum plans is in progress for the Unit 4 website. Please keep checking back, as I imagine its availability will make writing your summary much easier. In the meantime, you have access to the Vimeo meeting recordings and the summary documents used by the Board at our meetings of 8/15 and 8/18 [link to Unit 4 website]. Once this official referendum information is posted, perhaps some of your questions from today will be answered. Let us know then if you still have other questions, as we work on a FAQ page.”

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Thanks, Kathy. I will keep checking back, and I will hold on to my questions to see how many are answered. 🙂

      For other readers, here are direct links to the videos Kathy mentioned:
      August 15:
      August 18:

      There is a lot of information in both. For me personally, it is hard to go through a video with no written text on hand as I look for a specific piece of information. (when the meeting minutes come out, I hope that will help)

      Additionally, there are many documents and Tier II committee meeting videos on the facilityplanning website:

  2. Emma Says:

    I wonder why South Side isn’t getting a cafeteria while they are at it. Right now they don’t have a dedicated cafeteria at all.

  3. Rochelle Funderburg Says:

    Charles, thanks for providing all of this info. I went back and looked at the previous discussions, and in one you listed 6 hangups you had with the previous referendum. A couple of them are still relevant, I think, and have not been addressed. The first is the idea that this is an all or nothing thing–why can’t we vote on pieces of the plan, or why isn’t the Board putting up a few projects at a time? Second, you asked for information about the correlation between dollars and the quality and results of education. I haven’t seen any studies but think that might be a good idea, particularly when we are all looking at the delivery of education in the future perhaps being something different than what we’ve seen in the past.

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      I really wish they were thinking more long-term. Not only are they creating a heavy burden right now if this passes but the lifetime of the work being done is all staged together as well. We will never get ahead of this, let alone caught up with the money aspect of it. It’s possible in the rush we could still be paying for some of this and need to come back and replace it.
      I’m not sure I’d favor having the public vote for the “popular” school to be done but what about two different plans? I’d like to see Dr. Howard, Central, and IPA done this time, changing IPA to the K-8. That would relieve some over-crowding at the middle schools so fewer trailers, creating cost savings. Any savings from fixing any schools should go to fixing other schools. School funding is precarious as it is, and to have them think taxpayers are an unlimited resource is mind-boggling.

      • charlesdschultz Says:


        In regards to your last sentence, isn’t the whole point of voting to determine what the majority wants? If the people want to change the way they are taxed, or the amount they are taxed, they need to speak.

        I fully I realize that “it is easier said than done.” I get that. Modern day voting is somewhat of a joke, especially with no public deliberation. But is there a better alternative?

        We all have ideas of what we think would be “good”. 🙂 I would like to see a third high school, which also relieves overcrowding but introduces other challenges. If we could find a standard or global “good” thing that we all agree on, that would be wonderful. Unfortunately, the way things stand now we are too divided. What is best for our community (and who gets to decide what “best” is)?

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Rochelle, you are referring to the following post:

      As you mentioned, yes, a couple still are relevant even today. Based on my correspondence and chats with various board members and the County Clerk (Gordy Hulten), putting up multiple referenda is not very practical. For instance, what happens if voters vote “no” to Central but “yes’ to Centennial? Plus, I think there is a limit to how many questions one tax district can ask on a single ballot (at one time, I heard the limit was three, but I never found legal proof one way or the other – apparently it is quite rare). And keep in mind, it is known that Unit 4 is going to have another facility referendum in the near future regardless – from their point of view, there is just too much for one referendum. Personally, I do still wish there was a way to vote piecemeal – my vision is that you put all the possible projects in one massive, prioritized list and let voters vote on each and every single one of them, allowing the district to punch out anything that has a “yes” vote.

      In regards to finding a correlation between dollars spent on capital projects vs educational quality/outcomes, the reality is that nobody is going to take the time to measure, track or analyze relevant data points, much less hold anyone accountable. To be fair, that would be a huge undertaking. I have to ask, is it worth it? It sounds good, but when I start looking at the implications of what this means, it loses its luster. What educational outcomes do we want? What if we, as a group, want different outcomes? If we could unequivocally show that public schools are directly responsible for a downward trend in local crime and poverty levels, that would be totally awesome. I have no idea how to show that, though.

      I have refrained from giving my own slant on the November 2016 referendum (for or against). The board has done their job, now the people need to do theirs. If the people wish to be uninformed, or listen to only one voice, that is their choice. I think it is a bad choice, but hey, it’s a free country, right? 🙂

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        “And keep in mind, it is known that Unit 4 is going to have another facility referendum in the near future regardless – ”
        I don’t think this is well known at all…too many people are too busy and the information is too inaccessible. It’s a full-time job trying to keep up with what elected officials are doing and still not know everything.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    Now that the school district has released a formal summary, I have updated the table; before hand, I was missing information about McKinley Fields. I have altered the row for Franklin to make it a little more clear that the work being done is not to the building itself, but rather to the fields nearby, for use with Central athletics.

  5. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    Okay, Charles. Why can’t we put referendums on a primary ballot, multiple ones, where people could vote up or down different plans, with the winner moving on? It’s not legal now but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be changed. I don’t like the polling of a small group and using that to decide for the whole district. This would allow the whole district to decide which plan to move forward with, and then vote as a whole to support it or not. It might be more likely to pass because they had a voice in it.

    • charlesdschultz Says:


      First, I am all for an exercise in democracy where we try to change the ways these things happen. Moreover, I wish this very thing were taught more deeply in the very schools we are talking about. 🙂

      The first and foremost obstacle that stands in the way of putting multiple referendums (referenda ?) on the ballot is the monolithic “status quo”. Somehow you (“you” in the generic plural sense) would have to convince the board and the administration to put multiple questions on the ballot. This might also be tied up in working with (or perhaps working against) the professional consultants that have been hired to direct the district in this referendum business. This is the easier of the two.

      As I implied before, I am led to believe that it is actually legal right now to put multiple questions on the ballot, but I think the limit is kind of low – certainly not enough to divvy up the referendum per school. So the next obstacle would be changing whatever law (or policy, dictate, or whatever it is) that sets the limit in the first place. Frankly, I have no idea how to do that. And given the failed exercise of democracy like the anti-gerrymandering efforts of a redrawn district map, I don’t think “the people” are very confident that the leaders up the ladder have any intention of changing the status quo.

      An easier, but non-binding approach would probably be much more practical; put all those questions in a survey that allows one “vote” per email or household address. The trick is to illicit massive responses, not just those that usually respond to surveys.

      What suggestions/ideas do you have?

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        The school district itself could have votes on several plans, just on an honor system, but giving name and address. Vote at your neighborhood school of which plan you like best for a referendum.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        Rebecca, maybe something like this?

        This is just a quick Google form I whipped up, nothing fancy.

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        I’m thinking more like plan A, plan B, Plan C. And So Plan A could be what they are putting on the referendum now, B could be something like the work at Central, Dr. Howard, and IPA. Maybe C would be just Central and Centennial. Ultimately the school board has to come to some decisions about needs, not wants. What needs to be done. That’s why we pay them the big bucks. But they also have to realize who they represent. It’s this whole community, with a large population getting free lunch.

        It’s frustrating also because even after seeing what happens when decades of neglect happen, there is no long-range plan. There is some land banking starting to happen but just when these loans get paid off, without any funds set aside, we will be in the same place.

  6. charlesdschultz Says:


    The facilityplanning website has been updated with a lot of information (blog-style) – this is a good place to start reading:

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