Since the Great Recession, District 204 has been struggling to make repairs to school facilities.
To achieve an annual balanced budget, $40 million was cut during the 2010 to 2014 school years, leaving many projects deferred.
“One of the first ways we looked at cutting that first ways we looked at cutting that money out of our budget was to take it out of our operations and maintenance program and trying to keep it away from classrooms as much as possible,” said Jay Strang, chief financial officer for District 204.
Deferred projects include masonry issues, wall leaks and repairs to asphalt and cement walkways.
District 204 began installing air conditioning in elementary schools four years ago. That project is nearly 70 percent complete and will require another $7 million to finish.
Estimates on other deferred projects include $8 million for masonry and roof repairs, $2 million to replace obsolete heating and cooling controls, and $2 million to upgrade locks and intercoms – something that ranked highly on many parents’ lists.
“We were all shocked that our schools don’t already have locks that can be locked from within each classroom,” said Diana Karras, a District 204 parent. “We were surprised that that’s not already available or accessible.”
Outside consultant EMG Corp estimates District 204 should be spending nearly $8.5 million on capital projects each year, but the system has spent less than half of that in eight of the last 10 years.
“I was a little surprised that the district does so much with so little,” said Tom Benedetto, a 2011 District 204 graduate. “I think it’s very impressive that they are able to do so much with such a low operating budget.”
When asked how they would rank importance of improvements, community members also said building exteriors and electrical, HVAC, and plumbing were top priorities.
The next Engage 204 session is March 20 and will address the district’s budget.
Naperville News 17’s Beth Bria reports.
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