Editorial: Follow bouncing checks

Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2013, 3:01 pm
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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
The poor folks who run Silvis schools are once again holding bad government paper.

The long saga of the state writing rubber checks for a new junior high school dates back to 2002, when Illinois first awarded the district the funds to build the school, but never sent them. That appeared to change when ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich rode into town carrying a giant cardboard check.

But as we've noted here before, like so many other things in that failed administration, it turned out to be worthless.

School officials and local lawmakers, however, refused to give up and the money eventually would be included as part a massive capital bill backed by the governor and approved by the General Assembly. But then, even after the district got a letter saying that the construction grant was on its way, a lawsuit over how the capital bill was to be paid for threatened to derail that and a host of other projects around the state.

Local leaders continued their fight, however, and today Silvis students attend classes in a shiny new junior high. But the district's financial challenges regarding construction are not yet over, even though the reason for it is new.
The latest incidence of insufficient state funds comes as a result of the most recent black mark on the state's creditworthiness.

A $1.5 million construction grant promised to the Silvis School District has been held up since state officials in January pulled a $500 million capital project bond sale. Silvis, along with schools and transit projects elsewhere in Illinois, now must await the state's timetable for a new sale date.

Illinois officials reportedly declined to issue the bonds because just days before the sale was to take place, Standard & Poor's downgraded Illinois credit rating to an A minus and gave it a dreaded "negative" outlook.

The top credit ratings agency's decision to give the state the worst credit rating in the nation was driven by Illinois' huge public pension crisis and Illinois' leaders inability to address it. But contractors must be paid and work on things like renovation of the old junior high must continue. So Silvis is forced to dip into its dwindling reserves.

We guess Silvis officials are bit luckier than some because they have reserves to raid. We fear other districts and projects around the state may not have been so lucky. But that doesn't mean the delay comes without a price for Silvis schools.

"It's putting us in a real cash flow problem," Superintendent Ray Bergles said. As a result, state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, is pushing for Illinois officials to "man up."

"If the state was never going to live up to its promise of construction dollars, why approve the project and give the people of my district false hope," he said. "The state made an agreement, and needs to come through on that agreement now."

He's right, of course, and we second the call.

But, just as importantly, the incident adds to the huge pile of terrible consequences that continue to mount as Springfield dithers over a more than $94 billion pension hole.

And it shows that the price of their inaction will be borne, not by a Legislature which refuses to act, or a governor unable to successfully lead on this crucial issue, but the taxpayers and schoolchildren they are elected to serve.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Oct. 20, the 293rd day of 2014. There are 72 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The store of Devoe and Crampton was entered and robbed of about $500 worth of gold pens and pocket cutlery last night.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Michael Malloy was named president of the Tri-City Stone Cutters Union.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dewitte C. Poole, former Moline newspaperman serving as vice consul general for the United States government in Paris, declared in a letter to friends that the once gay Paris is a city of sadness and desolation.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans for the construction of an $80,000 wholesale bakery at 2011 4th Ave. were announced by Harry and Nick Coin, of Rock Island. It is to be known as the Banquet Bakery.
1964 -- 50 years ago: An application has been filed for a state permit to organize a savings and loan association in Moline, it was announced. The applicants are Ben Butterworth, A.B. Lundahl, C. Richard Evans, John Harris, George Crampton and William Getz, all of Moline, Charles Roberts, Rock Island, and Charles Johnson, of Hampton.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Indian summer is quickly disappearing as temperatures slide into the 40s and 50s this week. Last week, highs were in the 80s.

(More History)