Budget impasse delays school construction, threatens school district

Parents in Mounds, Illinois, hoped construction on an addition at Meridian Schools would be complete when their children return to school to this fall. With the state’s budget impasse, that won’t happen.

The Meridian School District says it may now have bigger problems.

At first, Angela Temke thought this construction meant a new chance at an education for her two daughters.

"Them having a new school, a new opportunity a new chance," Temke says.

That hope turned to disappointment now that the Meridian School District is waiting on the second half of a grant it received from the state to finish the project.

"These children have sacrificed a lot. To see this happen, and they’re going to be let down," Temke says. 

Black mold in the elementary school has forced elementary and high school students to share one building, with middle schoolers taught in temporary buildings outside. The new building would have added more than a dozen new classrooms, office space and a gym.

"Right now, what we’re planning is the worst, because we’re probably going to run out of money soon," says Meridian Superintendent Spencer Byrd.

Byrd says the district has enough money to get the roof, windows and doors on the building to keep it secured. Most of the district’s money comes from state funding, so at this point Byrd says problems go beyond the expansion.

"We won’t be able to make it through November, so we will start contemplating not finishing our school, but shutting down our school all together," Byrd says.
It’s a problem many parents aren’t ready to think about. "It’s scary. I don’t even want to think about it," Temke says.

The project engineer says construction will continue on the addition for about two more months. If the state still hasn’t agreed on a budget, he’ll have to put a hold on construction. He says delays will make the costs of the expansion go up.

Lawmakers return to Springfield on Wednesday before the fiscal year begins on Friday. Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday announced he is pushing for stopgap funds for schools, universities and other state services. That competes with a stopgap bill and school funding plan that comes from state Senate Democrats.

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