District 300 to lobby state lawmakers for overdue capital grants

Officials want to use portion of funds to help finance $7M construction project

CARPENTERSVILLE – School District 300 Board members want to pressure state lawmakers to award overdue construction money the district would use to help finance a $7 million project.

Members discussed Monday a resolution that permits officials from the Carpentersville-based school district to lobby legislative leaders and other lawmakers to release state construction money originally awarded to District 300 in 2004.

The district has wanted to use a portion of the $60 million in overdue capital grants to finance the new administrative building near Jacobs High School and the renovation of administrators' current building for students at the alternative Oak Ridge School to use.

"We want to work with [districts] to put pressure on the legislative process," said member Steve Fiorentino, who co-chairs the legislative committee. "It's a very aggressive plan."

Members of the district's legislative committee also plan to organize the 50 districts awaiting the backlogged money from 2004 to help make a personal pitch for the funds during a Springfield trip in May.

Construction will begin on the $7 million project later this month after the board unanimously awarded an initial set of bids for both buildings, despite the uncertainty on funding the project. After recently receiving other grants, the district needs about $3.2 million to bankroll the renovation and new administration building.

The first bids awarded Monday total $2.12 million, including $1.63 million to 10 companies to do excavation, roofing and concrete work on the new administration building. A second set of bids will be presented within the month.

Officials have been waiting for the state construction money ever since the district started expanding its facilities in 2004 to accommodate a larger student population.

The increased pressure on lawmakers comes after the Illinois State Board of Education awarded belated grants earlier this year to the school districts that applied in 2003.

District officials would want lawmakers and the education board to commit to releasing the 2004 funding and determine where individual districts rank for the money, under the messaging strategy detailed in the resolution. They also want the state to release any remaining capital funds leftover from the 2003 release.

Officials would seek commitments from lawmakers before the legislative session concludes at the end of May.

If the lobbying effort ultimately fails, District 300 would borrow additional money and use leftover bonds from last year to finance the Oak Ridge renovation and new administration office, officials have said.

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