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TREMONT — Tremont residents will be hearing in the next few months about the school district's construction plans — and a proposed tax increase to pay for it.

The district wants to build a cafetorium — a combination cafeteria and auditorium — classrooms and an outdoor athletic complex. The district intends to issue up to $9.5 million in bonds to pay for the work.

Voters will be asked in a March 21 referendum to increase the property tax rate by 52 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation to pay for the bonds.

The school board has formed a committee to make the case for the tax increase.

"At this magnitude, projects like this definitely come at a cost, but hopefully folks will start to learn the needs and rationale behind it," Superintendent Don Beard said. "By Jan. 1 people will start to hear a lot more about this project."

Beard said the committee will point out to the public that the district's tax rate is relatively low.

"Currently we are the second lowest school district in Tazewell County when it comes to our tax rates," said Beard. "We are definitely fortunate for that."

The district initially looked at about $15 million worth of work throughout the schools, but it later narrowed the proposal to $9.5 million by concentrating on the junior-senior high school complex.

Beard said the item that tops the list is construction of a cafetorium at the junior-senior high school. The current cafeteria is too small and outdated, and the building lacks an auditorium, Beard said.

"With a cafetorium, we would have the opportunity for plays and for the community to even use it for fine arts programs," said Beard. "An auditorium alone would be very costly and not as practical because it's not used every day like this would be."

The plan also includes a new band and chorus room, a new science lab, upgrades to the chemistry/physics lab and new classrooms. The current cafeteria and other rooms would be remodeled for classroom space.

An outdoor athletic complex would offer a new football field and all-weather track.

A $150,000 gift received over the summer from the estate of the late Bob Brenkman in memory of his father, Lewis, already has been designated to go toward new locker rooms, storage areas, restrooms and concessions as part of the new athletic complex.

"We are looking at both our academic and co-curricular needs in this project," said Beard. "Both sides are pretty outdated and below average."

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