Building Unwanted Schools in Illinois

Published February 1, 2005

While taxpayers in Florida’s Miami-Dade School District aren’t getting the new schools they want and need, taxpayers in Jersey County, Illinois, are getting new schools they don’t want and don’t need, despite rejecting –by a 71-29 percent vote–a 1999 school district referendum to build two new schools. School enrollment in Jersey County has been falling for the past eight years.

According to information provided by the Coalition for Public Awareness of Jersey County, Illinois, the repair estimate for bringing the district’s existing high school into compliance with state code was $531,000 in 2000. A year later, the district’s repair estimate had jumped more than 20-fold to $13.99 million, with the cost of building a new high school pegged at $12.8 million.

The higher repair estimate permitted the district to access a grant of $20.53 million from the state’s Capital Development Board to build two new schools with a local bond issue of $14.0 million, for which no referendum was required. Local taxpayers, who did not want new schools, now see new schools being built and are awaiting the increased tax bills that will be imposed on property owners to pay for them.

Many Illinois school districts on the state’s financial watch list have taken advantage of the same school construction grant program, according to Coalition for Public Awareness Chairman Jeff Ferguson.

George A. Clowes ([email protected]) is associate editor of School Reform News.

For more information …

visit the Web site of the Coalition for Public Awareness of Jersey County, Illinois at