Two School District Celebrate Passage Of Referendums, But One Still in Doubt

Apr 19, 2013

Update, 4/23/13

All absentee ballots have been counted...Hall High School referendum supporters have still won. Two absentee ballots from the Hall district were added to the vote totals today: one yes and one no, so the extremely close margin stands. The measure to raise $32-million to build a new high school passed 1,717 - 1,714.

A couple of northern Illinois school districts are celebrating the passage of big referendums in the recent elections. But while one is a done deal, the other could still be reversed.

The referendum for Somonauk School District 432 allows it to raise the property tax rate from 3.05 percent to 4 percent for the district’s education fund. It passed easily with two thirds in favor of the raise. District Superintendent Dawn Green says declining property values had previously led to the district cutting some music and sports programs. She says a failure of the referendum would have meant even more drastic cuts on the horizon.

 “We would be eliminating ag, art, band, computers, all electives, middle school sports and JV sports. And then in the following year, all sports would be cut.”

Green says passage of the raise won’t solve all the district’s problems, but at least current programs can be taken off the chopping block.  Green says she’s grateful for the community’s strong show of support.

While the Somonauk referendum passed by a wide margin, a referendum on a plan to raise $32 million for a new Hall High School in Spring Valley won by just three votes Election Night.

Advocates say the present school’s condition is dire and something has to be done. Hall High School District 502 Superintendent Mike Struna says the board looked at all the options, including what it would cost to bring  the present facility up to standards, before making a decision.

“The bottom line for the board was that 18 million dollar investment in a 100 year old building they didn’t think was very practical,  so the current board decided to build new.”

Opponents say this is not the time to ask taxpayers to fund a new facility.

Hall High School in Spring Valley was built in 1914. There have been numerous additions and renovations over the decades, but much of the basic structure remains as it was almost 100 years ago.
Credit Hall High School District 502

The problem for proponents now is the small difference in the vote totals. The Bureau County Clerk says 21 ballots that were sent out had not been accounted for by Election Day, and if just a few of those come in against the measure, it could yet be defeated. The deadline for counting absentee votes is April 23.

Depending on the outcome, supporters of the referendum will either be refining plans for the new school, or gearing up for yet another campaign.