Construction costs for D-300 administration building under budget

CARPENTERSVILLE – District 300 officials will spend about $960,000 less than anticipated on a new administration building, as uncertainty clouds their lobbying effort to have lawmakers relinquish overdue construction money that would fund the project.

District board members earlier this week approved the final bids for the new administration building that crews already have started building near Jacobs High School.

The move puts the $3.91 million project about $960,000 under budget and might help appease some community critics who have questioned the need for the project, Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin said.

"We are certainly happy where the bids came in," Harkin said. "We are taking a lot of heat on this project. ... Having the bids lower for the school district is definitely good."

Administrators from the Carpentersville-based school district unveiled plans in February to build the two-story administrative building shortly after announcing a plan to renovate their current office building for students at the alternative Oak Ridge School to use.

The Oak Ridge renovation is already underway, with crews working to finish the project by the summer.

The combined projects now total $5.08 million, nearly $2 million less than officials originally expected to spend on the building moves.

As construction unfolds, district officials will try and up the pressure on state lawmakers to release overdue capital construction grants that would pay for the projects.

The district already has sent emails to Gov. Pat Quinn, General Assembly members and state education organizations about its 10-year wait to receive construction money originally awarded in 2004.

But state lawmakers may take months to answer District 300's concerns.

District spokesperson Allison Strupeck said state leaders seem "to be getting lost" on the issue, as the current legislative session in Springfield winds down and lawmakers finalize a state budget.

District officials also have been told the state won't prioritize the 52 districts awaiting construction funding from 2004 until lawmakers approve additional funding for the capital grant program.

The district doesn't know when lawmakers will make that vote, with a busy election year agenda that includes a looming income tax vote still on their plates.

"The state doesn't need to continue delaying the completion of the priority ranking process," Strupeck said. "Completing ... the process doesn't cost the state any money, and it is crucial information for D-300 and the 51 other districts to better plan our own budgets."

If the state fails to release the money, the district board will likely vote by December to borrow $2 to $3 million to pay for the Oak Ridge renovation and the new administration building, Harkin said.

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