Chicago Public School Capital Plan Proposed For Fixes

The Chicago Public Schools laid out a new, modest capital plan early in May 2018, one for 2019, aimed at fixing the many mechanical problems plaguing about two dozen schools in the city, which will include calling upon construction companies like Crofts, for things like boiler repairs and roofing.

The draft plan, which totals to about $189 million, which would financed by long-term borrowing, is subject to change. A spokesperson from the CPS said that the school district was looking into ideas that would increase the district’s funding, in order to address facility needs throughout the city, but they declined to elaborate.

The proposed budget includes $154 million to cover what CPS defines as ‘significant’ exterior renovations, like fixing roofs, windows and brick work, at 18 buildings plus an additional $35 million more for more mechanical work at five other schools. Part of the issues in need of addressing include upgrading the heating and cooling system at Kenwood High School, as well as calling on a company like Crofts to handle the boiler repairs at Burnham and Coles elementary schools at the South Side.

The capital budget is different and separate from the district operating budget, which is used to fund day-to-day expanses, like teacher salaries. Longer-term infrastructure projects, like security systems or software installation or upgrades, are funded via long-term bonds, which tend to backed up by property taxes or financial aid from the state.

The CPS’s more recent capital budgets are much smaller compared to the bigger, more ambitious plans laid out in the past. 2018’s capital budget sits at $136 million, most of which went to urgent roof and mechanical repairs and maintenance throughout the district.

Back in 2017, the district had a massive capital plan amounting to about $938 million, which had to be issued in two phases. The fund was backed by a city property tax, one especially enacted for funding school constructions, and resulted in the earmarking of hundreds of millions of dollars of capital funding for several new projects, which ranged from adding new annexes to currently existing campuses, new turf fields, a new, consolidated Englewood high school, and a new campus set to be built on the real estate formerly occupied by Cook County Poor House.