The plans for an alternative school are moving forward. Tuesday night the Rockford School Board is expected to vote on this school for problem students, so the next task is to find a way to pay for the school.
When the one-cent sales tax passed, Winnebago County said they would use the $23 million to build a new jail. The rest would go to crime prevention, rehabilitation and alternatives to incarceration.
Due to a federal lawsuit that the county has been under for year, they have until next Tuesday to continue on their main goal, to reduce the overcrowding in the jail. By next week they have to reduce the jail population by 50 people.
Winnebago County Board Chair Scott Christiansen said, "It's going to be difficult based on our crime rate to meet those mandates by the court. That's why it's important that whatever we do now directly effects the population."
Christiansen says he is open to seeing a proposal from the school district about the alternative school, but he says any decision on funding would have to come next fall. This spring, the current 21 programs who receive a chunk of the sales tax are evaluated for their effectiveness. These alternative programs are reviewed after one year.
Christiansen tells 23 News, “I do feel we'll be hard pressed to do much ‘till we are through lawsuit and the new facility is operational."
Recently, Ceasefire, a crime prevention program, was denied funding by the county. Christiansen says there are still too many unknown costs with building a new jail. On March 7, 21 different bid packages are due and that will give the county an overall construction cost total.
Christiansen says, "That's why the Public Safety Commission was hesitant to approve money for Ceasefire. Once we got those bids in we'll see where we are at ‘cause that could impact what gets funded down the road."
So Rockford Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson's idea to use the county's sales tax is not out of the question, but counting on the county to help fund the $750,000 school may have to wait till fall.
Tuesday night, the Rockford School Board will take a vote to begin the process of starting to hire staff and build a curriculum for an alternative school.