IL budget stalemate could put hold on Meridian School construction

IL budget stalemate could stall school building construction

MOUNDS, IL (KFVS) - Meridian CUSD #101 is adding a new addition to replace its elementary building that was condemned more than two years ago due to toxic mold, but construction could be put on hold due to the budget stalemate.

Due to the mold that was found, Meridian is in an emergency status, meaning a new building had to be rebuilt. 

"Until then, the past couple of years all of our students, K through 12, had been housed in one building, which has been quite a challenge," superintendent Spencer Byrd said. "We are essentially over capacity in our one building, but we're making due. And because of the building closed due to mold, this is a high priority for us."

Modular classrooms were set up to provide more space for students and staff.

Because Meridian school was declared an emergency status, Byrd says the state said it would pay for 90 percent of that construction project.

The state gave them money to start it it, but now the money to finish it hangs in the balance as law makers still can't come to an agreement over a budget.

"Right now, due to the fact that there is not a state budget, a lot of the funds have been placed on hold," Byrd said. "In particular, we're counting on 45 percent to finish this product which will not be released to us until 50 percent is spent."

It's something Byrd says makes school administrators very anxious.

"Even by holding the money a little bit, if this project is delayed at all, the most alarming thing that could occur is that we could lose our contractors. They're not going to sit and wait and see if the state is going to give us our money or not.  "

Right now the building is set to open by the end of June.

The superintendent says he is hopeful that the state will release the rest of the funds since the district is an emergency status and a top priority school district....but it's still all uncertain, and even if those funds are released, the question is when.

"If they don't have a budget the question is will they release our money anyways, because we are a priority school district and because we are in emergency status," Byrd said.  "Otherwise what could possibly happen, which we fear the most, the worst case scenario would be the project stops. And if we don't get those funds and this project stops, that's going to create a whole new set of problems."

Going into its ninth month without a state budget, Byrd says it's frustrating.

"We're so excited about it and now, due to these things that are happening outside of our control, the state budget, it could be delayed, and that's really frustrating," he said.

Pam Thurston, who's been a teacher at Meridian for the past 31 years, says it's a problem where everyone's stuck in limbo.

"We just need to get a budget and get it settled, so that everybody knows what direction we're going in," Thurston said. "At home, you wouldn't want to live your life, your budget, not knowing how much money you were going to have to live on, so we just need to plan accordingly."

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