Could a nearly $9 million cash grant from the state of Illinois come to the rescue of cashed strapped Riverside-Brookfield High School?
It could happen, but don’t count on it.
Back in 2003, District 208 applied for a grant of up to $8.9 million from the Illinois Capital Development Board, a state board that funds non-road construction projects, such as school additions and renovations.
RBHS is currently 49th on the list of school districts waiting for money from the Capital Development Board. Schools are mostly ranked in the order of their application.
The Illinois Capital Development budget is funded by motor vehicle fees and sales tax revenue from taxes from a variety of sources such as beer, wine, spirits, sweetened tea, coffee and candy.
The program had languished for many years as the General Assembly battled with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The capital development budget was finally authorized and funded in 2010
It is not certain whether any money will be left in the program when RBHS’ number finally comes up. The program is scheduled to expire in 2013.
“Whether we can get to number 49 on the list depends on how much of the available funds are expended by schools number one through 48,” said Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Capital Development Board.
What are RBHS’ chances of having its number come up and getting some money?
“That’s difficult to say, because we are gradually going through the list now, and we just don’t know how far the money is going to go,” Blanchette said.
The Capital Development Board loses the authority to collect and spend money on June 30, 2013, so if RBHS’ number does not come up before then the school could be out of luck.
However, it is possible that the Illinois General Assembly could fund another capital development program.
“It’s up to the Illinois General Assembly if they would like to do another capital construction program following the expiration of the current one,” Blanchette said.
There are three tiers of schools waiting for money. RBHS is in the second tier. Tier One schools, which include 24 districts, applied in 2001, Blanchette said.
The District 208 school board unanimously passed a resolution at a special meeting on Aug. 24 to renew its application and certified that it spent local dollars on the construction project to make it eligible for the grant.
If RBHS does get the money, it would buy the district some time to solve its financial problems. Last year RBHS ran an operating deficit of almost $2 million and this year is projected to run an operating deficit of about $917,000.
If RBHS gets the grant it could spend the money any way it wants to.
District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis says he can’t rely on getting the money, but it sure would come in handy if it comes through.
“Right now we are preparing that we’re not going to get the money, because it is totally reliant on the state,” Skinkis said. “Anything we do receive from them would be a bonus. If we did receive the $8.9 million, we would… try and create a financial plan on how we could extend the value of that money, so that we would be able to support our current programs and help our spending problems and also stretch that out enough to where we wouldn’t have to go for a referendum for a few years.”