Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2013, 5:32 pm
Silvis schools again awaiting state funds
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By Eric Timmons, firstname.lastname@example.org
A $1.5 million construction grant the state promised to the Silvis School District has been put on hold after the state decided last month not to proceed with a $500 million bond sale.
The bond sale to fund school and transit projects was postponed in late January, days after ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut the state's credit rating. The downgrade likely would have driven up the cost of issuing bonds.
Standard & Poor's pointed to the state's ongoing difficulties sorting out the huge unfunded pension liability in its decision to cut the state's credit rating to A minus with a "negative" outlook
Silvis school superintendent Ray Bergles said the $1.5 million construction grant was to be funded through the postponed bond sale.
He said state officials informed the district that a new bond sale may be attempted in March or April, but in the meantime, the district has been forced to dip into reserves to pay construction contractors.
"It's putting us in a real cash flow problem," Mr. Bergles said.
The grant is part of $15 million the state has agreed to provide the district to fund construction of a new junior high school, which now is open. The project also includes renovations to the old junior high school, which will start to house elementary school students in April.
The money first was awarded in 2002, and so far, about $9 million has arrived, Mr. Bergles said. The district submits requests for funding as the construction project progresses.
Over the summer, more costs will be incurred as part of the district's old elementary school is torn down.
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said it was time for the state to "man up" and pay the district the money promised a decade ago.
"If the state was never going to live up to its promise of construction dollars, why approve the project and give the people of my district false hope," Sen. Jacobs said. "The state made an agreement, and needs to come through on that agreement now."
Gov. Quinn's office could not be reached for comment by press time.