How much of state’s capital improvement dollars are targeted for suburbs?

Nearly $200 million worth of state capital improvement grants are earmarked for hundreds of projects throughout the suburbs.

Some grants are worth millions of dollars, while others are just a few thousand dollars, according to the most recent report from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Office of Management and Budget.

Scores of government agencies and nonprofit groups were awarded the grants in recent years. And like the varied amounts of the grants, the projects being funded are in various states of progress.

“Our project was completed in 2021, and our paperwork has been submitted to the state. We’re just waiting for reimbursement,” said Sasha Vasilic, the communications and marketing director at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.

The $100,000 grant awarded to the library will help offset the cost of replacing an HVAC system.

Meanwhile, other projects have barely gotten off the ground.

“We went out to bid a couple weeks ago,” said Lisle Park District Director Dan Garvy. “We thought the grant would be able to cover the full cost, but the project came in a little higher than we expected.”

The park district partnered with the village to fund a canopy over a pedestrian walkway that goes under a railroad overpass near Community Park. The grant was for $250,000, but inflation and supply chain issues increased the cost to more than $300,000 since it was awarded, Garvy said.

More than $27 million has been reimbursed to local governments and nonprofits in the suburbs since the grants were first awarded in 2023, records show.

The grants are all part of a $6.5 billion Build Illinois Bond Fund with the smaller amounts largely administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Other state departments oversaw disbursal of larger grant awards, like the $10 million Villa Park is expecting to receive when the village completes its new $20.5 million parks and recreation center later this year.

“We’re currently in an old grade school,” said Greg Gola, the village’s parks and recreation director. “With this grant we were able to do the construction with no additional impact to taxpayers.”

In addition to the parks and recreation center, the village, school district and nonprofit groups in Villa Park were awarded 17 other capital improvement grants totaling more than $1.4 million through the state program.

Prospect Heights Elementary District 23 Superintendent Don Angelaccio said district officials worked with local legislators to secure more than $400,000 in grants to renovate school buildings, including new doors, windows and siding that was first installed during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

“The whole project is more than $2 million, but we’ll gladly accept the gift of these grants,” he said. “It had to be done whether we got the grants or not, but now we can use funds we didn’t spend to offset future capital costs.”

In 2019, the state launched a massive capital improvement spending program called Rebuild Illinois. The $45 billion program was the largest of its kind in Illinois history.

During his State of the State speech late last month, Pritzker announced his plans to add $3 billion more for capital investments throughout the state.

“That will help protect our most vulnerable children, promote economic development, protect public health, upgrade our security through new information technology initiatives and an enhanced National Guard readiness center and modernize state and higher education facilities,” he said.

It’s unclear if any of the new funds will be issued to local governments or nonprofits through a similar grant program.

House bills 5723 and 5724 list all of the grants awarded that need re-appropriation in the upcoming fiscal year 2025 budget request for funds that have yet to be issued.

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