Dist. 116 resists temptation to 'spend, spend, spend' new state money

  • The Round Lake Area Unit District 116 school board has decided to use new state money to fund high-priority tasks, as well as $260,000 for a new chiller and air conditioning at Round Lake High School.

    The Round Lake Area Unit District 116 school board has decided to use new state money to fund high-priority tasks, as well as $260,000 for a new chiller and air conditioning at Round Lake High School. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/14/2018 6:28 PM

Despite a recent injection of $5.8 million in state funding, the Round Lake Area Unit District 116 school board is taking a measured approach to spending on capital projects.

District staff members identified just over $1.5 million in projects that should be done this summer but officials decided not to dip into the new money to fund all 55 tasks. Last week, officials approved $917,019 in summer maintenance projects.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Lots of folks would like us to spend, spend, spend," Board President Kevin Daniels said. "But we want to make sure we get the best bang for the buck and invest it wisely."

The projects the school board decided to fund include all 18 high-priority tasks. That list includes $35,000 to renovate the Indian Hill Elementary entrance, which isn't up to the district's security standards, and $180,000 to replace the leaky roof on the administration/early childhood education center building. The board also approved paying for 5 of 21 medium priority projects, such as $260,000 for a new chiller and air conditioning at Round Lake High School.

District 116 received $5.8 million in April from the state's new "Evidence-Based Funding" model, which lawmakers approved in August 2017. The law fundamentally changes how state money is distributed to schools and calls for the state to steadily increase its investment in underfunded school districts.

According to the state's calculations, District 116 should receive about $106 million total from state and local sources. Before the law, it received about $54.5 million for the 2017-18 school year, of which $40 million came from the state.

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Because it took the state many months to determine how much money school districts should receive, District 116 officials didn't count on the money being there when they planned the 2017-18 school year budget.

The district has decided to use the money primarily on one-time expenses but have spent little of it, so far.

The most notable expense funded by the state money is the $643,585 plan to complete flood damage repairs at Murphy Elementary School and add preventive measures.

The district is in the process of improving athletic facilities but won't be ready to spend any money likely until next summer.

Facilities Director Sheila Duhon said the district's new architect -- Chicago-based STR Partners -- is conducting a districtwide analysis of the athletic facilities. In March, Duhon and Athletic Director Mike Mizwicki told the board the Round Lake High football stadium, running track and practice fields and four other athletic facilities need extensive repairs.

"It's very easy as sports fans to look at our fields and say you need this and this," Daniels said. "Sheila and her team and the architects are doing their due diligence."

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