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Board considers cost of upgrading more schools

CHAMPAIGN -- Parents are not the only ones who might have to foot the bill for new schools.
CHAMPAIGN -- Parents are not the only ones who might have to foot the bill for new schools. It would be all residents. The school board is listening to two proposals Monday night. Both involve big changes to schools in the city. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera has more from the Mellon Building.

The list of recommendations won't come as a big surprise for people living in the area. Building a new Central High School and fixing up a few other buildings have a proposed price tag that may make a few jaws drop.

"We're talking millions of dollars," said school board president Laurie Bonnett.  

$193 million to be exact. That's how much consultants say people need to invest in their schools.

"It does sound like a lot," said Courtney Anderson, who lives in Champaign. 

The biggest chunk of change would go toward building a new Central High School. It will cost taxpayers about $83 million.

"There is a pocket of people who love Central as Central High School," said Bonnett. "There is another faction of the population that says we're landlocked."

Other parts include renovating or moving at least two other grade schools and Edison Middle School. But these solutions bring more questions.

"Will the community support it?Will they pay for it? So that's the bigger question," said Bonnett.

In one recommendation, taxes would increase $250 if your home is worth $100,000. But the average home in Champaign is worth more than $140,000.

"We need to put a lot more money into it, but I don't think the community should have to contribute so much to that," said Anderson. 

One proposal lumps all the projects into one referendum and the other splits it into two. Board members said they've got a lot on their minds and a lot of work left to do.

"This isn't the end of the discussion," said Bonnett. "It's really just the beginning and it really helps to give us some framework for where we need to go."

Board members don't have to act on the proposals at Monday night's meeting. Voters will be able to have input on the tax increase. That's one of the concerns leaders have with splitting the referendum. If the second round doesn't get approved, some projects might not get finished.

Voters have pitched in for a few new schools recently. Carrie Busey Elementary was dedicated last year at a cost of $18.5 million. Booker T. Washington was about $18 million as well. That's been open since 2011.
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