District 300 renews push for late state funds

Community Unit District 300 officials kicked off a legislative campaign Monday night, one they hope results in the state handing over between $35 million and $60 million it has owed the district for 10 years.

Officials hope to use a portion of that money to fund a new administration building expected to open in December.

Monday night, the board unanimously approved a resolution that calls on the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn to:

• Approve bond authorization to fully fund the money the district is owed.

• Ensure the money isn't diverted from the School Construction Grant Program, which is supposed to send the money to the district.

• Make the Illinois State Board of Education rank and prioritize the 2004 applicants for the money.

• Require that the state board distribute the money that was approved in 2004.

By approving the resolution, the district puts renewed pressure on the legislature in hopes that it releases the money soon.

“If not, there are a lot of gray areas nobody knows ... a lot of questions,” said Trustee Kathleen Burley, chairwoman of the district's legislative committee. “So by bringing this up and by giving our position on this, hopefully it opens the doors for a dialogue with our legislators.”

District officials have detailed a complicated transition plan that involves moving students at Oak Ridge School in Carpentersville to the central office that will be converted and sending central office staffers to offices at Hampshire High School until the new headquarters in Algonquin opens in December.

The Oak Ridge portion of the project is already paid for, but there's money owed on the administration building the district is constructing on property it owns near Jacobs High School.

The district got the building project going with about $2 million left over from debt certificates it issued last year for parking lot and mechanical projects, Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin said.

The building is expected to cost about $5 million to $5.5 million, and the district needs an additional $3.2 million, she said.

The district was due to receive money from the state's School Construction Grant in 2004 for a shortage of classroom space due to a population growth in the 2000s. The district used money from a referendum to resolve those issues and has been waiting on the state money ever since.

If the state doesn't come through on the money it owes by December, the district would need to issue additional debt certificates to fund the $3.2 million, Harkin said. Debt certificates are interest-bearing bonds that do not require a referendum.

“The board finance committee at the next meeting will be looking at those alternatives and talking about what that looks like for us if we were to do that,” Harkin said.

The next step is for the district to reach out to legislators and to the 50 other districts who applied for the money and have yet to receive it, said Allison Strupeck, the district's spokeswoman.

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