District looks to expand or warns of overcrowding

By Anthony Antoine | aantoine@wcia.com

Published 02/12 2014 01:24PM

Updated 02/12 2014 01:56PM

CHAMPAIGN -- An influx of children and growth in the community mean more money is needed for the school district to keep pace. The Champaign School District will ask voters to approve a tax increase this November. They want more money to build the new Central High School and to renovate Centennial. WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine explains.

The district is already collecting a 1% sales tax, but it's not enough. School leaders say that money was used to fix the immediate needs of elementary and middle schools, plus it went toward buying a portion of land for the new Central.

But, supporters say more money could move the district even further. Champaign is a growing city. More than 11,000 people moved here between 2000 and 2010.

"People are choosing our schools and wanting to be a part of our community."

Homes and businesses are springing up all over and the numbers in schools are surging.

"We're able to match how many people we feel would be here next year, two years out, several years out, and make sure we have the place to properly educate those students."

This chart projects that growth in enrollment. High schools are already over capacity. Within three years, the middle and elementary schools will be as well.

"It's probably about time for us to ask that question again of the community."

That question? A referendum to raise property taxes. The money would go towards the high schools.

"We definitely have the needs currently to provide an adequate and appropriate opportunity for high school students right now. They need upgraded science facilities. They don't have climate controlled facilities right now."

This is in addition to the 1% sales tax which brought in $82 million. If the referendum doesn't pass?

"The needs will still be there. We are communicating the needs clearly enough to the community. It's been passed before."

The last time the district asked for this type of referendum was in the 1990's. That money went toward Barkstall and Stratton elementary schools.

The chart the district is using for enrollment is based on birth rates from the state. This is the largest kindergarten class the district has ever had.

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