Chicago schools need $3B in repairs, opt for new construction and modernization
- Since 2011, despite having a $3 billion backlog of necessary repairs, the Chicago Public School system has spent 60% of a $3.1 billion pot set aside for construction and maintenance on new schools instead, according to WBEZ. Last month, the school district released $189 million for building upkeep.
- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for new school buildings and modernization of existing structures through expensive upgrades, but critics of his capital plan point to leaking windows and roofs, faulty temperature controls, mold, old boiler systems and capacity concerns.
- The school facilities budget is backed by bonds that taxpayers will have to pay off in the coming years, so concerned parents and others are pushing for more transparency when it comes to how the money will be spent. City officials say the district can tap proceeds from a $45 million annual tax levy and an upcoming loan to make repairs, but Emanuel has pledged at least $75 million of that to high school lab projects.
Many school systems have to decide how they will divvy up limited funds between repairs and other goals. In Tucson, Arizona, for example, lawmakers decided to give $15 million to teachers and support staff, leaving the school district with no money for repairs, transportation and technology bills. According to school officials, there is no money for security infrastructure either.
Schools in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District in California will be getting some relief from property owners as it struggles to pay for its laundry list of repairs. Voter-approved Measure I, which passed by 65% last month, authorized a $213 million bond to help cover about a third of what the entire district needs to upgrade its campuses. The bond will cost homeowners approximately $20 for a period of 30 years.
But the repair crisis is not limited to K-12 schools. Colleges and universities are having a hard time meeting their maintenance obligations as well, and Youngstown State University in Ohio decided to turn to bonds too. The institution issued bonds to pay for $200 million of deferred maintenance costs. Youngstown State also liquidated about $8 million in investment earnings to pay for future capital projects and is using public-private partnerships for other development and construction needs.
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