Dist. 204 'committed' to air conditioning

 
 
Updated 9/23/2014 7:08 AM
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  • Indian Prairie Unit District 204 board member Cathy Piehl, center, asks whether the school board could delay installation of partial air conditioning systems at 19 elementary schools if the state education formula changes and decreases the amount the district would receive. Money to install air conditioners was approved in the district's budget, but leaders are watching what will happen with proposed education funding changes at the state level.

      Indian Prairie Unit District 204 board member Cathy Piehl, center, asks whether the school board could delay installation of partial air conditioning systems at 19 elementary schools if the state education formula changes and decreases the amount the district would receive. Money to install air conditioners was approved in the district's budget, but leaders are watching what will happen with proposed education funding changes at the state level. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

Board members in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 approved a budget Monday night that provides money to install partial air conditioning at 19 elementary schools where students and teachers suffered through sweaty conditions a year ago this month.

The $3.7 million allocated for partial air conditioning is part of a $309 million spending plan that also includes $3.5 million for other building improvements and $2.5 million in new technology.

Board President Lori Price said the board is "committed" to providing heat relief, but air conditioning and other planned expenditures could be threatened if the district loses large chunks of state funding.

Jay Strang, assistant superintendent for business, said District 204 could lose up to $19 million if state legislators approve a proposed change to the formula for distribution of education funds, which is being discussed under Senate Bill 16, and a proposal to shift teacher pension costs to local school districts.

"We would have to significantly cut or find a new revenue source to run the district like we have" if both school funding changes and a pension cost shift are approved, Strang said.

Board member Cathy Piehl asked if the board could delay air conditioning installation if state funding stands to be decreased. Strang said the board could do that by turning down a contract for a company to install the air conditioners.

Administrators said they aim to bring a contract for consideration by Dec. 8.

"The engineers have been in the district and they're beginning to put that plan together on how we can get that work done," Strang said.

But the board is watching what will happen with Senate Bill 16, and at Price's suggestion, members plan to consider a resolution against the bill.

"Because of the inadequacy of school funding, there are still winners and losers," board member Michael Raczak said about districts the would gain or lose money under the proposed new state funding formula. "As this is written, it's very hard to support."

Changes in Senate Bill 16 would dole out money based much more heavily on a district's local wealth or poverty, with poorer districts receiving more. Proposed adjustments also would give districts different amounts of funding based on how many students they have in categories such as low-income, special education, gifted or English language learners.

Strang said District 204 could lose $10 million if the funding formula changes in Senate Bill 16 are approved as-is.

District officials plan to attend a legislative breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at Lincoln Junior High in Naperville to discuss state education funding with politicians and leaders from Naperville Unit District 203 and Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200.

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