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“Nobody wants to take on any more debt than is necessary, but this is clearly an extenuating circumstance that mandates this action from the General Assembly on behalf of our students,” - State Senator James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville)

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville) is working to ensure funds are available to rebuild the damaged Wolf Branch School District 113 middle school building.

Clayborne’s House Bill 1265 allows the school district to exceed its statutory debt limit to secure funds for emergency repairs necessitated because the building sunk 25 inches last year after the collapse of an abandoned mine below it.

“It is a miracle that no one was hurt when that mine collapsed,” Clayborne said. “Through this legislation, Wolf Branch will be able to fix the school and get back to the business of educating our kids.”

As a result of the damage, the middle school has been deemed unsafe and all 372 middle school students have been moved to the district’s elementary school building, resulting in significant overcrowding. All of Wolf Branch School District 113’s 797 students are now schooled in one facility.

Clayborne said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has taken steps to use federal funds to prevent the mine from further collapse and the district is pursuing other grant money to rebuild its facilities, but the raising of the debt limit is unavoidable considering the circumstances.

Illinois law only allows a school district to borrow a certain percentage of what their land is valued at, and Wolf Branch is allowed no more than $12.6 million in debt. This project would require $17.5 million, so one-time action from the General Assembly is required.

Per the legislation, the debt limit would decrease by the amount of any further state or federal grants received for the project as well.

“Nobody wants to take on any more debt than is necessary, but this is clearly an extenuating circumstance that mandates this action from the General Assembly on behalf of our students,” Clayborne said.

HB 1265 is currently assigned to the Senate Education Committee.

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