Two schools -- old and falling down -- get help from state

News-DemocratNovember 6, 2013 

— An Illinois Senate committee advanced two measures Wednesday that will allow two local school districts -- in Lebanon and Chester -- to carry out their building projects.

The Senate Education Committee passed a plan that will allow the Lebanon school district to continue raising funds for a new school building. Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, sponsored the proposal, House Bill 1002.

"The school district has been raising funds for this much-needed new building. This bill simply gives the school the opportunity to continue raising money," Clayborne said.

The bill would extend the school district's debt limit, allowing the district to continue issuing bonds and collecting the $7.5 million that residents voted to raise in a referendum in 2010.

"The current school is 80 years old and the community is in dire need of a new building, I'm happy to be able to assist this process in any way," Clayborne said.

The other measure approved by the committee will allow Chester's school district to opt out of a state mandate that has delayed construction on the $5.8 million elementary school project. The mandate involved a federal "green building" rating system for school construction grants.

Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said the district has a hillside school building that is collapsing.

"The hill is sliding away, under their school," Luechtefeld told committee members. "It's really something they have to do, right away."

Luechtefeld said the measure, which is sponsored in the House by Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, is a "simple fix that will allow the construction to hopefully progress at a much quicker pace and thus enable Chester to take advantage of the (state's) financial assistance and place fewer burdens on local taxpayers."

The Chester measure is part of an amendment to Senate Bill 1595.

Both measures now go to the full Senate, where they could be voted on Thursday.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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