Schools' requests for low-interest money far exceed availability; Aurora, Wheaton-Warrenville have applied

 
 
Updated 1/28/2016 10:03 AM
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  • Almost 200 school districts in the state are seeking permission to use a low-interest way of borrowing $2.36 billion for school repairs, renovations and construction. Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 is one of eleven school districts to request the maximum allocation of $50 million.

      Almost 200 school districts in the state are seeking permission to use a low-interest way of borrowing $2.36 billion for school repairs, renovations and construction. Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 is one of eleven school districts to request the maximum allocation of $50 million. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

Almost 200 school districts in the state are seeking permission to use a low-interest way of borrowing $2.36 billion for school repairs, renovations and construction.

But Illinois has authority to allocate only $495 million, ensuring many of the 193 districts will be disappointed when the allocations are announced. The state board of education plans to decide at its Feb. 10 meeting.

The districts want to issue qualified school construction bonds, a federal tax-credit instrument. With such bonds, the federal government reimburses school districts for the interest they pay on the loans. Officials with West Aurora District 129 have estimated, for example, that they could save $750,000 in interest for every $1 million borrowed.

First priority will be given to those who have projects ready to go and have the ability to borrow money. Since the requests exceed availability, the state will also consider how much of a district is low-income; how much local money a district has available to draw on, per-pupil; the age of its buildings; and the square-foot-per-student capacity of the buildings, compared to the national average.

Some districts, such as Batavia District 101, put in applications knowing that, given their relative affluence, there was little chance it would receive an allocation.

School districts could request an allocation of up to $50 million. Eleven school districts made such requests, including East Aurora District 131, West Aurora, Wheaton-Warrenville District 200, Leyden District 212, North Shore District 112 and Hinsdale District 181.

West Aurora and Glenbard High School District 87 were two of several districts pushing for the state to start allocating the bonding authority. The federal government established the bonds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and gave the state school board the authority to decide who could use them.

But the state school board turned the authority over to the governor's budget office. No allocations were made. In November, the governor's office returned the authority to the school board.

Chicago Public Schools received a separate allocation directly from the federal government.

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