Round Lake Area Unit District 116 supporters plan to discuss how to accomplish a high school expansion and upgrades after voters refused to allow $29 million to be borrowed for the work.
Unofficial totals from Tuesday's election show the ballot measure was rejected 800-657. Property owners would have paid more in taxes to District 116 if the borrowing question had passed due to extended debt payments, officials said.
Hainesville Trustee Georgeann Duberstein, who chaired the Citizens for District 116 political action committee that pushed for a "yes" vote, said the group plans to meet after spring break to discuss how to convince residents about the importance of the proposed high school project.
"I can understand, in this economy, people are concerned about taxes and money," Duberstein said Wednesday.
District 116's assistant superintendent of business, Bill Johnston, said officials were disappointed with the vote's outcome.
"The need for additional learning spaces at the high school still very much exists," Johnston said. "The district will be discussing our next step over the next several weeks."
Round Lake High's expansion and building upgrades would have brought the maximum capacity to 2,288 students and allowed removal of portable classrooms, according to District 116. Part of the high school would have been demolished to accommodate the new construction.
District 116 had wanted to build 30 new classrooms, including four laboratories for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In addition, plans called for a new gymnasium to meet state physical education requirements and new student commons areas.
Duberstein said the district will need to place another, similar referendum question on the ballot to gain the funding needed for the high school work. She said the $29 million the district had wanted to borrow already was a scaled-down amount, because an architecture firm estimates all of the high school's construction needs at $80 million.
Meanwhile, District 116's referendum question attracted attention from a taxpayer advocacy organization that fought against it.
David From, state director of Americans for Prosperity Illinois, said the district's ballot measure was one of 25 the group agreed to oppose.
"One of the things that piqued our interest is (property taxes) seemed to go up quite significantly," From said of the district's high school plan.
Under the proposal, the district would have restructured debt to keep the current tax rate steady over time. The ballot wording didn't ask voters to approve a property tax hike, and specified the work that would be done at Round Lake High School.
However, officials said the lack of a tax-hike request on the ballot did not mean homeowners would not pay more toward the bond-and-interest fund, over the life of the loan, if the measure had passed.
Added cost to taxpayers would have come because existing debt is scheduled to end in 2025, but repayments for the new borrowing were projected to last through 2028.
From said Americans for Prosperity was contacted in February by some local activists who were concerned about the borrowing request. He said the group pushed for a "no" vote by using mailers, automated calls and telephone banks worked by volunteers.