News Local/State

Monticello Dis. 25 Voters Asked Again To Pass Bond Referendum

The Monticello High School football team practices in pre-season training in August.

The Monticello High School football team practices in pre-season training in August. Lindsey Moon/WILL

Voters in Monticello School District 25 said “no” to a bond referendum to build a new high school in 2014 and 2016. Now, the school board is asking them to consider a more modest proposal to improve school buildings.

Gone is the proposal to build a brand new high school building, next door to Monticello Middle School on the east side of town. Gone also is the proposal to consolidate the district’s grade school classes in the old high school and adjacent Washington Elementary School buildings.

Instead, the bond referendum on the March 20 ballot calls for renovating and enlarging the current Monticello High School building, part of which dates back to the 1920’s. New classrooms would be added, STEM and science labs would be built in the old pit gymnasium space, and the entire building would be air-conditioned.

Washington School would be enlarged as well, with additional classrooms and a multipurpose gym that would be big enough to host extracurricular activities for Monticello High School.

As in past proposals, Lincoln Elementary School on the north side of Monticello would be closed. But the elementary school in White Heath would remain open, housing 4th and 5th grade classes for the district.

District 25 Supt. Vic Zimmerman says the new proposal came out of three months of meetings by a volunteer advisory committee. He says they came up with a proposal that that spends less money and gives more attention to the district’s elementary schools. Zimmerman hopes it will be a closer match to what voters in the school district want.

“You know, if you were to come to Monticello and just pick somebody randomly off the street, they’d tell you that the school facilities do need to have improvements,” said Zimmerman. “We just have to find the plan that the majority of the community members will support.”

Previous referendums were for around $40 million in bonds, and would have cost the owner of a home with a $100,000 market value about $18 a month in additional property taxes. The proposal on the March 20 ballot is for $29.8 million and will cost that same homeowner $5.92 a month. Zimmerman says the projected two-thirds tax savings on a bond proposal that’s only one third smaller than the previous one is possible because of past debt which the Monticello school district has paid off during the last few years.

When District 25 voters rejected the bond referendum in 2016, Zimmerman said at the time that it was the last time that proposal would be put on a ballot. But he says that if the new referendum fails as well, the district is likely to come back with some other idea for improving its facilities.

“This is the third time around,” said Zimmerman. “We’re certainly hoping that this will pass on March 20th. If it doesn’t, we still haven’t improved our facilities. So we’ll have to look at round four.”