A promise by Palatine Township Elementary District 15 leaders to abandon the most controversial portion of a massive borrowing plan wasn't enough to win over voters.
With 83 of 88 precincts counted as of early Wednesday morning, unofficial results had 19,282 voters saying "no" and 9,550 saying "yes" on the referendum question. The district asked voters for permission to borrow $27 million for a working cash fund and building improvements.
"This was clear communication tonight from the community that they want a different solution to taking care of these capital improvement projects," interim Superintendent Scott Thompson said.
Though he wasn't allowed to advocate for or against the bond issue, Thompson had waged an informational campaign in recent weeks, meeting with PTA groups and homeowners associations.
Had the loan received voter approval, Thompson said he would recommend to the school board that it borrow just $16 million to pay for capital projects at the schools, taking advantage of Build American Bonds, in which the federal government rebates 35 percent of the interest.
Under the modified plan, the owner of a $220,000 home would pay about $15 more annually over the loan's 20-year life span, or $45 more for a $660,000 house.
Opponents led 7,500 people to sign a petition forcing the bond issue to a referendum. They launched a campaign of their own with blogs, e-mails and political signs.
They criticized the board majority for approving the bond issue before deciding exactly how to prioritize projects, and argued there's enough money in reserves to pay for them.
With tough choices ahead, District 15 will rely on a series of community meetings to determine how to proceed.
Former administrators warned layoffs and cuts to educational programs are inevitable, but Thompson said Tuesday night he doesn't "think we'll have to resort to impacting classrooms and teachers."