District 202 board holds hearing to authorize bond funding


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

ETHS/District 202 superintendent Eric Witherspoon at a District 202 board meeting. In a brief statement distributed yesterday to students, families and staff, Witherspoon said the district was made aware of allegations on January 8.

Catherine Henderson, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston Township High School/District 202 board held a public hearing Monday to authorize the sale of $6 million of working cash fund bonds for renovation projects in the school’s 95-year-old building.

Board members listened to the proposal during their meeting at ETHS. District 202 Chief Financial Officer Mary Rodino said the money would fund the third entrance renovation and other capital projects.

“We are redoing entrance three and have heard nothing but positive feedback,” Rodino said. “I felt strongly, as many people do, that if we were going to do that particular project we should do it right. It hasn’t been done in … 50 years.”

Elizabeth Hennessy of Raymond James — an investment company serving 3 million clients worldwide — has been advising the district about finance and debt projections for the fiscal year. She said the public hearing is just one step of a longer process.

After the meeting, the financial committee will need to prepare an offering document and a presentation for a bond agency, she said. Once prepared, Hennessy will return to the board on May 7 and authorize issuance, at which point the bonds will go to market and be sold. Hennessy predicted funds should be available for the district to use by the end of May in time for summer projects.

Last year, ETHS was awarded a AAA rating, the highest possible bond rating, Hennessy said.

“We presume that will be the case this time as well,” she said.

District 202 superintendent Eric Witherspoon told The Daily it was “normal” for ETHS to sell this amount of bonds every two years. Witherspoon emphasized that few school districts get a AAA rating, demonstrating the strength of an investment in District 202.

Witherspoon said bond funding is essential in maintaining ETHS facilities, adding that bond funding dates back to the beginning of the school district.

“This building was built in 1923, so there are a lot of capital needs, and that’s what the bonds do,” Witherspoon said. “They go to take care of the school facility.”

Witherspoon said the district is “capped,” meaning it has a legal limit on how much debt it can accrue over a year. Every year, the district pays down debt to leave room for additional projects up to the cap, he said.

Other Illinois school districts use public finance in the same way, Witherspoon added.

Rodino said the bond money would go to other projects, including development over the summer and “brick and mortar” tasks to maintain the building. She added some funding from the ETHS Educational Foundation would contribute to campus projects as well.

“We certainly will reserve some (bond) money for next year’s projects, but as you know our funding is tight every year,” Rodino said at the meeting. “We always have more needs than money, and we just try to scale it down and postpone what we can. It’s a constant struggle.”

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