Political Leaders Discuss Rockford Schools Referendum

Nov 2, 2012

The November ballot includes a key question for Rockford voters. They’re being asked decide the fate of a major construction plan for the city’s school district. The proposal is getting a lot of support from political leaders. But not everyone is on board. 

The school district wants permission from voters to carry out a $139-million dollar bond sale. Officials say that would allow them to get going on a ten-year plan to fix and modernize many of the district’s aging schools. Because the bond sale would replace existing debt, officials say it wouldn't drive up property tax rates.   

The Rockford Tea Party sent out an e-mail this week, urging voters to reject the ballot initiative. Even though tax rates wouldn’t increase, the Tea Party says their main concern is that struggling homeowners would miss out on a chance to see their property taxes go down. 

But Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen, a Republican, says there’s a sense out there that helping the district modernize its schools would produce better results for the community.

"The folks I've talked to all recognize that education is our future. Now, in our world, companies can locate anywhere very easily" Christiansen said.

Christiansen says a highly skilled-work force would be very attractive to companies looking at communities like Rockford. 

Charles Laskonis chairs the local Democratic Party. He also says it’s about making sure students are well-prepared for today’s job market.

"As citizens who have been taught in an environment that's more technologically advanced, they all add to our community" Laskonis said. 

Those involved with the campaign say some of the district’s buildings have insufficient electrical systems, and cannot be relied upon when trying to provide modern technology in the classroom.