MORTON — The Morton School District will not explore establishing a capital campaign that would help pay for future facilities needs.
School Board member Bart Rinkenberger suggested Thursday at a special committee of the whole meeting on facilities that the district consider a capital campaign, and the board directed Superintendent Jeff Hill to research how it could happen.
But the directive was rescinded Tuesday after four board members — Shad Beaty, Kevin Austin, Jeff Schmidgall and Tom Neeley — spoke out against a possible capital campaign.
Board member Michelle Bernier backed Rinkenberger's suggestion. Board member David Cross did not comment.
"I feel a capital campaign is an out-of-the-box way raise funds without raising property taxes," Rinkenberger said. "But without the board's support, there's no way a campaign would work. So I'm willing to table the idea."
Rinkenberger said he heard negative comments about his capital campaign idea from community members, which also influenced his decision to not pursue it.
"I don't see a downside to simply looking at a capital campaign, and I don't understand why some people fear looking into it," Bernier said. "Plus, it takes a long time to set up and do a campaign. You have to start sometime."
Beaty said he doesn't think it's the board's responsibility to pursue a capital campaign, but he would not turn away a benefactor and would be in favor of a campaign done privately or through the Morton Community Foundation.
Austin agreed, saying the board shouldn't be driving a capital campaign.
"Right idea, wrong time," Schmidgall said, adding that a capital campaign would be a distraction to facilities and programming challenges the board is facing.
"We need to focus on the here and now," Austin said.
Neeley, the board president, said he doesn't think a capital campaign would be a distraction to the board.
"But I'm not willing to take a gamble on that," he said.
Building a new high school or a new grades 5-8 middle school have been suggested as long-term solutions to facilities and programming issues facing the K-12 Morton district, which has six schools: four elementary schools, grades 7-8 Morton Junior High School and Morton High School.
The latest construction estimates are $74.9 million for a new high school and $52.9 million for a new middle school, not including infrastructure improvements and renovation work at other schools.
With a growing enrollment, crowded rooms and a land-locked campus footprint, the junior high school is of particular concern. If a new high school or a new middle school is built, the junior high school probably would be demolished.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.