Earlier this month, the Illinois State Board of Education approved the East Aurora School District 131 application for up to $50 million in construction bonds. The interest on Qualified School Construction Bonds is reimbursed by the federal government, so the bonds could allow East Aurora to address significant facility needs at a deeply reduced cost to taxpayers. The bonds can only be used for construction.
The Qualified School Construction Bonds were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The state of Illinois recently decided to release the federal funds, allowing multiple district to submit applications.
More information about the application process is available on the State Board meeting agenda. The Qualified School Construction Bond information begins on Page 139.
Next Steps to Issuance
The East Aurora School District 131 Board of Education approved the district to apply for the bonds. However, the Board will still have to vote on which specific projects the bonds would be used for, and how much of the $50 million the district would ultimately use. The district would not necessarily need a referendum to issue the bonds.
The East Aurora Finance and Building and Grounds departments filed a QSC Bond application which indicated the funds would be used to add 20 classrooms to East Aurora High School; renovate the high school’s library, cafeteria and lockers rooms; as well as HVAC repair, window replacement, and flooring at multiple buildings. These projects were all part of the District’s long-term construction plan, which could be accelerated by using QSC Bonds.
If the board decides to use the bonds, it is not expected to raise resident’s tax bills. The bonds would be structured to front load the reimbursable interest payments, with most or all of the principal kicking in as the district’s current bond issuance expires.
“This authorization means selected districts can take advantage of low- to zero-interest bonds to pay for building and construction needs rather than diverting limited financial resources away from the classroom” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith. “No state dollars are being spent, and local taxpayers will not have to help foot the bill for high interest costs.”
Many applicants for QSC Bonds
According to the State Board, between Dec. 1 and Jan. 15, the state received 193 applications asking for $2.4 billion in funds, although only $495 million was available through the QSC Bond program. When determining which districts were approved for QSC Bonds, the State Board considered equity, tax burden, safe learning environments, and whether projects were ready to begin.
Locally, East Aurora English teacher Melanie Kleimola gathered more than 800 signatures from students, staff, and community members on a Change.org petition.
“I am so proud of the East Aurora community for making our voices heard on this issue, and I am thankful for the State Board’s prompt response to our application,” Kleimola said. “This is an exciting day for the students and families in East Aurora who will have the opportunity to access facilities that are conducive to learning and suitable to the size of our student body. I am especially proud of all of my students who took the opportunity to share and sign this petition, and I hope that this participation in the democratic process will be an encouragement to them as they grow up to become voters.”
SOURCE: East Aurora School District 131 news release
About East Aurora School District 131
East Aurora School District 131 was established in 1847, making it the first public school district in Illinois. In East Aurora School District, the staff, students and community are inspiring learners. The latest State Report Card data indicates that about 86 percent of East Aurora School District 131 students are Hispanic, 8 percent are African American, 4 percent are white, 1 percent are Asian, 1 percent are American Indian and 1 percent identified with one or more races. About 90 percent of East Aurora School District 131 students are considered low income. Since the 2013-2014 school year, all students can receive free breakfast at their schools. One third of East Aurora School District 131 students receive English Learner services. More than 56 percent of East Aurora School District 131 teachers have a Master’s Degree or higher.