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Students are out, library users are in as tax hike referendums produce mixed bag.

Byline: Marni Pyke

Northwest Cook County voters balked at paying more taxes in two school district referendums for capital improvements but embraced a similar quest by a library district in Tuesday's election.

"It was just 'no new taxes,'" Barrington Area Unit District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said to sum up why residents narrowly rejected borrowing $185 million.

"For any community to raise taxes, it's a very difficult question to put out there," Harris said.

Preliminary tallies showed 3,853 district residents opposing and 3,690 supporting the referendum that would have built a fine-arts center at Barrington High School, among other things.

But just east of District 220, Palatine Public Library District voters opened their wallets to allow spending $5.8 million on fixing the roof and upgrading heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system in the 25-year-old structure.

It could have been that "we really made a concerted effort to get all the information out there," Executive Director Jeanne Dilger said.

Or the fact the library's users come from all walks of life. "We see such a wide range of people and we do our best to keep up with what people are looking for so the library is no longer a warehouse of books," Dilger said.

Meanwhile, River Trails Elementary District 26 couldn't convince Mount Prospect voters to endorse borrowing $19 million to renovate Park View School so it could accommodate kindergarten and preschool classes, freeing up space at two elementary schools.

Unofficial vote tallies showed 928 people in favor and 1,113 opposed with all 10 precincts reporting.

"I definitely think there are people who don't want their taxes to go up for any reason," District 26 Superintendent Nancy Wagner said. But another segment of voters also objected to plans to move kindergartners to an expanded Park View School where preschoolers are located.

Tuesday's results come four months after an atypical Nov. 6, 2018, election where multiple school districts were successful in seeking tax increases for capital projects. Among them were Maine Township High School District 207, Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 and Harper College in Palatine.

The boisterous midterm election also reflected voters' opinions on President Donald Trump, with a surge of suburban Democrats ousting some longtime Republicans on county boards.

Tallies are still coming in but it appears low voter turnout predominated throughout the collar counties.

"Historically, April elections are tougher," Harris said. For tax increase referendums, "November elections are more friendly but I wouldn't say that was the huge issue here."

Republican State Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills who lives in District 220 voted against the referendum.

"People are sick and tired of high property taxes," McSweeney said. "The school districts are the largest part of property tax bills. I heard from many people who believe that a solid case was not made for the referendum. They don't want another property tax hike."

Meanwhile, Palatine Township Republican Organization Committeeman Aaron Del Mar was skeptical of his hometown library's request but gives the group credit for old-fashioned hard work.

"Trump's not on the ticket this time," Del Mar said. "In order to get a referendum through, you have to make a compelling argument to the taxpayer that you can be trusted with revenues. I cannot deny they did a great job of community engagement."

In others referendums, Wheeling voters fired a warning shot in an advisory referendum against any possible runway extensions at Chicago Executive Airport and South Barrington Park District voters again refused to allow the sale of a vacant 34-acre lot that once was a tree nursery.

And perseverance paid off for the Elk Grove Rural Fire Protection District board's fifth try at slimming down. Unofficial results showed 14 votes for reducing the size of the board from seven to five, with eight votes against.
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Apr 3, 2019
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