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Board decides it wants to buy land

Plans call for seeking site next to The Meadows

DIXON – School Board members came to a consensus Saturday: The district should buy land. For what still is up in the air.

The board members held a special 4-hour planning meeting in which they discussed their budget and building and transportation issues.

Pam Tourtillott asked her fellow board members how they feel about several issues the board has been discussing for many years. The acquisition of land was the only issue on which they agreed.

The other issues she asked them about were whether the district should build a sports facility or implement a K-12 campus.

Before asking for a "straw poll," Tourtillott noted how long the board has discussed those issues. The board recommended in 2002 that the district acquire land, she said.

"We're still recommending that," she said. "It's yes or no. We can only move forward if it's yes or no."

Superintendent Michael Juenger said the school district's architect already has said a sports and activities center could be located in an area next to The Meadows. The Meadows belongs to the Department of Natural Resources, but a private person owns land next to it, Juenger said. The district would not buy DNR land, but will negotiate to buy the adjacent land, Juenger said.

The board did not decide what the land would be used for. Some of the district's buildings, such as the Dixon High School building and the grade schools, are aging, as some board members noted during the meeting.

Board President Tom Balser said a sports facility is a "sweet spot that I want to hit."

"Looking at our community, one thing that's missing is a sports complex," he said.

The sports complex might make the city more appealing and might encourage Dixon graduates to stay in town, he said.

Balser said he does not think the community's voters will ever support a sales tax increase to support building facilities.

In a November referendum, 58.9 percent of Lee County voters rejected the sales tax increase, which would have brought about the construction of the sports and activities complex in Dixon and maintenance upgrades in other county schools. The issue will be back on the ballot in April in Lee County. If passed by voters, the district would be allowed to spend the revenue from the sales tax increase only on infrastructure, maintenance and building upgrades.       

The board did not take any votes at the meeting.

About 25 audience members were at the meeting, held in the Reagan Middle School cafeteria. They were invited to use laptop computers or other electronic devices to look at district budget information posted on the district's website as the information was presented to board members.

A discussion of staffing on the agenda was postponed to Feb. 27. The district had already planned to have a meeting that evening regarding student achievement, and the staffing issue will be discussed at that meeting as well.

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