Purpose and Timing of Possible Bond Referendum

Q: Why is Mundelein High School District 120 considering placing a funding proposal on the ballot next year?
District 120 seeks to address high-priority capital facility needs at the high school. The proposed improvements are focused on updating aging infrastructure, solving overcrowding issues and making health, safety, and security improvements.

Q: Why not build a new high school?
The cost of constructing a new high school is significantly higher than making the proposed repairs, renovations and additions. 

Q: Has the District properly maintained the high school?
Yes. The District continues to invest each year in the maintenance of the high school. However, there are repairs, renovations and additions that cannot be addressed without additional local funding.

Q: Is the District seeking funds exclusively for facility and site improvements?
The bond proceeds can only be used for capital facility needs. No funds would go toward operations.

Q: When will the Board of Education make a final decision regarding a possible bond referendum?
The timing and composition of the next referendum will be determined by a formal vote of the District 120 School Board. On Dec. 5, 2023, the Board reached a consensus to not place the issue on the March 2024 ballot. The Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee recommends putting the issue on the ballot for the November 2024 general election, citing a need to provide more time for public input and to further refine the proposed projects.

Building History & Condition

Q: How old is Mundelein High School?
Mundelein High School opened 62 years ago and was designed to last 50-75 years.

Q: What are some of Mundelein High School’s most pressing facility and site needs?
Our aging high school faces many capital facility challenges, including:

  • Capacity Issues: There are 2,200 students in a building designed for 1,500.
  • Overcrowding: Common areas, including the hallways and the cafeteria/kitchen, are all original to the building and too small to accommodate the current enrollment.
  • Aging infrastructure: Much of the building’s original infrastructure is still in use and has reached the end of its useful life. This increasingly leads to costly and disruptive emergency repairs.
  • CTE programming space limitations: The current CTE space is too small to house the equipment needed for skilled trades training and other CTE classes.
  • Disjointed health and wellness spaces: The school’s expanded health and wellness offerings are scattered throughout the building and take up much-needed instructional space. 
  • Lack of a multi-purpose center (fieldhouse): This type of facility provides space for physical education, health and wellness programming, athletics, assemblies, competitions, events, performances, practices and more. It’s precisely why all of the other high school districts in Lake County have this type of facility.
  • Competition gym challenges: The 62-year-old gym is not large enough to seat the entire student body, has ADA accessibility issues and is not air-conditioned.
  • Cafeteria is too small: The cafeteria space is original to the 1961 building and was designed to accommodate the needs of a much different era with a much smaller student population. Many students leave campus to eat given the long lines.
  • Auditorium safety and size concerns: The school’s auditorium stage is not big enough to hold the entire band or choir. The rigging is outdated and a small scene shop doubles as a storage room, creating unsafe conditions backstage.
  • Undersized band and music rooms: The current band room has a capacity for just 80 students, but more than three times that number are enrolled in the program. Classroom, practice and equipment storage space is also limited, forcing the district to pay for storage spaces outside of the school.
  • Traffic and congestion: There is significant traffic congestion causing delays along nearby streets at the beginning and end of the school day, and creating safety issues.

Q: What role does the District-owned Village Green Golf Course property play in addressing the District’s facility and site needs?
A: The District’s 40-acre high school site is woefully undersized to meet the District’s current needs and allow for future growth. Relocating certain athletic fields and tennis courts to District-owned Village Green would free up space at the high school, allowing us to add a multi-purpose center. The new proposal calls for a downsized, phased-in approach at the Village Green.

Q: Once improved, will the District be able to properly maintain the high school to prevent the need for another bond referendum in the near term?
As in the past, a comprehensive preventative maintenance program will be in place. The mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems that would be replaced  are well past their life expectancy. These systems have only lasted as long as they have because of a well-run maintenance program over the years. What we currently cannot avoid is the age of the equipment. When these systems reach their end of life, they need to be replaced. We cannot wait for catastrophic failure that would force school closures and interrupt learning.

Changes Made to Original Referendum Proposal

Q: How is the new proposal different than what voters turned down in April 2023?
The new proposal has been reduced from $175 million to $149.5 million.  This has been accomplished by cutting more than 36,000 sq ft of new construction. The high-priority projects that were part of the original proposal are still being pursued, but many have been downsized.

Q: What specifically is District 120 proposing to be cut from the previous funding proposal?
Some of the proposed changes to the original proposal that voters turned down in April 2023 include:

  • Reducing the number of multi-use spaces previously proposed
  • Expanding the high school’s footprint, but with 36,000 sq ft less of new construction
  • Eliminating the addition of a black box theater
  • Creating a single-level versus multi-level media center renovation
  • Converting the current main gym into a media center/student services space
  • Phasing in the development of the District-owned Village Green property to relocate tennis courts and certain athletic fields for lacrosse, soccer, softball and baseball, as well as making required infrastructure improvements
  • Eliminating the mezzanine level fitness space to reduce the scope of the north gym renovation
Incorporating CTE scope into the high school rather than constructing a new facility

Proposed Improvements that are Part of Downsized Proposal

Q: Which improvements would the downsized proposal address?
District 120’s updated funding proposal includes the following repairs, renovations and additions:

  • Repairing or replacing outdated, inefficient mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems
  • Updating fire safety systems
  • Creating a properly sized space within the high school for Career & Technical Education (CTE) programming
  • Updating the health and wellness spaces and bringing them together into a centralized area to create continuity, free up classroom space and make access easier for students
  • Upgrading the kitchen and cafeteria servery to alleviate space, health and safety issues
  • Expanding hallways to address unsafe and challenging overcrowding issues
  • Creating a flexible-use multi-purpose center (fieldhouse) that would support multiple physical education classes and provide space for health and wellness programming, athletics, assemblies, competitions, events, performances and practices.
  • Enhancing the competition gymnasium, including adding air-conditioning, addressing ADA accessibility issues and expanding the size to fit our current and project student population.
  • Improving the outdated auditorium with a larger stage, updated rigging equipment, dedicated workshop and storage spaces and adequate seating
  • Expanding music classrooms and storage space to accommodate the number of students enrolled in those programs
  • Adding a ring road around the campus to improve traffic flow, decrease traffic congestion/delays, increase safety and security and provide additional parking
  • Providing space for the Transitions program
  • Addressing infrastructure needs at the District-owned Village Green property to relocate tennis courts and certain athletic fields

Previous Work Completed with Non-Referendum Dollars

Q: Has District 120 previously added classrooms and labs with non-referendum funds?
A: Yes. The District has previously added classrooms and labs to address instructional space needs. The most recent of these improvements were addressed with the science wing using non-referendum dollars.

Q: Why did District 120 wait to address the needs of the high school’s common areas?
The District has placed a priority on health, safety and security, followed by providing quality instructional spaces. Next up on the list of highest priority needs are replacing outdated infrastructure that has finally reached the end of its useful life; adding CTE space; adding space for student support services and the Transitions program; and addressing renovations and additions tied to key common areas, including music classrooms, cafeteria and servery, auditorium, media center (library), gym and multi-purpose center.

Village Green Property

Q: Can the school district sell the Village Green property to pay for improvements?
The reason the Board of Education (BOE) was not looking to sell the property is because it is an asset the district owns and it allows for future growth. If the school needed to expand in the future the school district would not need to purchase the necessary land which means the community would not be asked to purchase the land through a referendum. This is an important point because we need to consider how much 50 to 90 acres of land will cost in 20 -25 years.

The BOE did put the Village property up for bid/sale in 2018. At that time the developers were bidding on the western 50 acres or the entire 94 acres. The best competitive bid for the 50 acres was $67,100 for a total of $3,355,000 and the best 94-acre bid was $65,000 for a total of $6,110,000. The district purchased the property in 2004 for approximately 8.4M. The question we asked ourselves is whether it is worth saving 6M now to spend 12M or more later on land.

Financing Plan

Q: What is the interest rate we’re expecting to pay for building bonds if a referendum passes?
A: The current projects are based on a 4 - 4.25 percent interest rate. We will continue to watch the market and update our projections if they change.

Q: How does this plan account for potential enrollment growth in the future from the new housing developments?
A: District 120 has regularly reviewed demographic projections to keep track of future growth. We regularly communicate with the Village government to keep informed about new housing coming to Mundelein. Our facilities plan is a long-term plan and it accounts for growth. The facilities improvement plan includes a combination of increased common spaces, additional classrooms and updated infrastructure designed to cover both our current and future needs. 

Q: Has District 120 previously added classrooms and labs with non-referendum funds?
Yes. District 120 remains committed to allocating $50 million of non-referendum dollars

Q: Would any non-referendum dollars be used to fund the proposed improvements?
Yes. District 120 remains committed to allocating $50 million of non-referendum dollars towards facility and site improvements. In order to make the most efficient use of these funds, they would be used in conjunction with the $149.5 million of voter-approved referendum dollars. 

Q: How does Mundelein High School District’s tax rate compare to that of other Lake County high school districts?
District 120 has been successful in maintaining a relatively low tax rate for many years, thanks to sound fiscal management as well as a successful shared services model with School District 75 that has saved both districts millions of dollars over the past several years. As a result, the tax rate for School District 120 is currently $2.48, the third lowest among Lake County high school districts.

Q: How much lower is the estimated tax impact of District 120’s new downsized proposal?
The estimated annual tax impact of the $149.5 million bond proposal, based on a 20-year term and a home with a fair market value * of $300,000, is $564.  This is $122.20 lower than the estimated annual tax impact of the $175 million proposal that voters turned down in April 2023. (* Your home’s fair market value is identified on your tax bill)

Other Funding Sources

Q: What is the impact of Mundelein’s TIF Districts on Mundelein High School financing?
A: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a tool used by the Village of Mundelein to fund improvements within the TIF district. The money is made by freezing the taxable assessed value of the property in the TIF. As the value of the property increases, the tax revenue from the property’s increased value is set aside for the TIF. Taxing bodies such as schools, parks, fire, police and village government are limited to collect taxes on the property’s value at the time it is frozen. The TIF freezes the tax value for 23 years. This means the school district loses out on new tax revenue as property values inside the TIF increase in value.

Q: How much does the school district receive annually in developer impact fees?
A: Developer impact fees are set  by the Village of Mundelein to fund the impact housing developers have on local governments and services (schools, police, fire, etc). While District 120 has had opportunities to communicate its needs with the village officials, the Village of Mundelein determines the amount developers pay. Since 2016, School District 120 has received a total of $1.2 million in impact fees. Those monies are put in the District 120 general fund balance.

Q: Why does the burden for school facility improvements fall largely on local property owners?
A: Illinois is a local tax-based state. This means that the largest single source of revenue for Illinois public schools is the local property tax, residential as well as business and industry. In fact, local property taxes provide about two-thirds of overall funding, with state and federal funding comprising the rest.

Anticipated Benefits

Q: What are the anticipated benefits of the proposed improvements?
The proposed improvements would provide many anticipated benefits:

  • Extending the useful life of existing facilities
  • Improving building performance, including energy efficiency
  • Enhancing health, wellness and safety
  • Reducing costly and disruptive emergency repairs
  • Enhancing ADA accessibility for student, staff and visitors
  • Addressing overcrowding issues and scheduling conflicts
  • Strengthening hands-on learning and collaboration
  • Expanding and enhancing Career & Technical Education programming
  • Attracting and retaining quality teachers and staff
  • Protecting property values

Career Technical Education Benefits

Q: What are the plans to expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) programming and what will the program mean for students?
Currently, the woods lab is utilized in all eight class periods and the fabrication lab is used in five of eight periods. With about 25 students per period, we currently have approximately 325 students a semester accessing CTE programming. The four CTE spaces as described in the facilities improvement plan would provide about 25 students each period in an eight-period day for a total of about 800 students per semester able to access CTE programming. In addition, improved facilities will provide the ability to teach more specific trades instruction in construction. Additional space will provide the facilities for a needed program (metals lab) which currently does not exist. The additional space would make it possible for MHS to expand the graphic design pathway of classes with a graphic design lab. The graphic design pathway of classes integrates with other courses and programming (athletics, clubs, academic departments) to provide services needed for successful completion of other curricula.

If the facilities improvement project moves ahead, MHS would be able to modernize the current woods lab, and have the necessary space and electrical service to run trades curricula such as construction, electrical and plumbing. A new woods lab would allow for carpentry, electrical and plumbing curricula along with 2D CAD Blueprint drawing and residential construction. Currently, MHS only offers a limited woods curriculum and less trades skills due to lack of space for the necessary building and storage of materials/projects.

The addition of a metals lab will provide space for a curriculum that does not exist currently at the high school but is very critical to the manufacturers in Mundelein and Lake County. A metals lab would allow for welding, bending, shaping and machining (mills and lathes) which are all industry standards our students experience after graduation. MHS does not have a space for these types of courses at this time.

The addition of a graphic design lab provides the opportunity for students to learn skills useful in almost every other industry. MHS is only able to offer the entry level skills without the application of entry and advanced skills. Additional space would provide the instructional space for students to work with paper, cloth, vinyl, and plastic for applications that can be utilized for other courses, extracurricular programs, and whole school needs (i.e. designing and printing of school/district materials). MHS currently does not have space for these types of courses

With new CTE spaces, the current engineering lab would have room to expand and add tools used in industry for fabrication. Currently engineering programming is not fully taught due to the lack of space for the necessary machines.

Fieldhouse Benefits

Q: With a new fieldhouse and new gymnasium included in the plan, why is so much of the project related to sports?
The competition gymnasium in our plan isn’t an additional space, but a replacement of our original competition gym. The addition of a fieldhouse in our plan is truly a multi-purpose space needed for PE classes, band practices, wellness programs, and even testing.

MHS is the only high school in our conference without a fieldhouse. Because of this, students are forced to move to other venues for special programming or even miss on-campus classes. Some examples include:

  • The MHS Robotics team hosted a “home” tournament in November, but it was held at the College of Lake County because the only space large enough at MHS (the competition gym) could not be made available.
  • When MHS sophomores and juniors had testing day, we had to close the school to freshmen and seniors because we did not have a large space available for testing.
  • During inclement weather, the MHS Marching Band is forced to practice in the aisles of the auditorium (not able to march, of course) because the only other space, the gym, is used for PE classes.

Sports practices are also impacted by the lack of a fieldhouse. Because of limited practice spaces student-athletes’ practice times typically stretch between 6 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

We expect 100 percent of students to benefit from our fieldhouse, some more than others, depending on their level of involvement in extracurricular activities, sports and music. 

Q: What impact will the new fieldhouse have on both academics and extracurriculars?
Participation in programs outside the classroom is a valuable asset that impacts learning at MHS. The average GPA for those who participate in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, etc) is 3.308 compared to 2.621 for students who do not participate.

In 2022-23, a total of 1,482 students (67 percent) participated in a sport or activity. Participation in sports increased from 517 (fall, 2022) to 595 (fall, 2023). Participation in 2023 would have been higher, but MHS had to make cuts in girls freshman volleyball and 40 students were not able to participate. Those 40 kids would have benefited from an intramurals program, but MHS does not have room for intramurals. We also had 72 students express interest in badminton. But due to lack of space, we are one of two schools in the conference that does not offer badminton.

Construction and Timing of Work

Q: What is the proposed construction timeline?
If voters approve a referendum in 2024, the overall construction timeline would begin in the spring of 2025 and last about three years. The District, architect, and construction management team will work together to develop a phasing plan that is least disruptive to school operations but still allows the work to pace out as efficiently as possible to be cost competitive.

Q: Will many of the improvements be addressed during the summer months to minimize the impact on day-to-day operations of the high school?
The intent is to perform a majority of the construction activities during the summer months. If there are opportunities to reduce the overall timeline of construction by performing construction during the school year with minimal impact to students and staff, they will be explored.

Q: How will students and staff be kept safe during construction?
Safety is our number-one priority. Much of the work will be done during the summer months when fewer students and staff are in the building. A project-specific safety plan will be developed for each stage of construction and will be updated as the project progresses. We will develop logistical plans that will identify hard barriers to separate/isolate construction activities from other occupants in the building.

Community Involvement & Engagement

Q: How can residents offer input on the downsized funding proposal?
The District will be hosting informational town hall meetings and tours at the high school. The first town hall meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 25 from 6:30-8 p.m.; the second will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 6:30-8 p.m. 

Q: If the referendum is approved, what oversight would be put in place?
All spending from a voter-approved bond measure would be publicly disclosed on the District’s website at www.d120.org and through other community outreach. Construction schedules, updates and other information would also be communicated regularly.

What if I have further questions?
For further questions about the proposal, please contact Dr. Kevin Myers at 847-949-2200, Ext. 1210 or send an email to mhsbuildingplan@d120.org.