Hawthorn District 73 will have to return to the drawing board as a request to borrow up to $42 million to expand and renovate all six schools was defeated.
With all 28 precincts reporting, unofficial totals showed 2,125 votes against and 1,463 in favor of the Vernon Hills-based district request to issue taxpayer-backed bonds to fund the 10-year educational facilities master plan.
"I figured we had a 50-50 chance either way," said Superintendent Nick Brown. "We tried to do a good job; everyone was aware the question was on the ballot," and what the 10-year plan entailed, he added.
Approval would have cost owners of a home valued at $350,000 an additional $310 in property tax each year. Part of the sales pitch was that tax bills would have dropped below current levels in seven years when outstanding debt is retired, district officials said.
Space already is at a premium and schools are at capacity and growing with another 705 students expected over the next decade. But voters apparently thought the price too high to accommodate growth.
"We'll just continue to try and solve our enrollment issues in creative ways," Brown said. "The board will have to make a decision if they want to ask the community for (financial) support again."
In literature presented to voters, the district said it anticipates needing up to 20 portable classrooms, larger class sizes and adjustments to the daily schedule.
The total estimated cost of the master plan was $53.4 million. The district intends to use nearly $12 million in reserves to pay for a new 18-room kindergarten center but that cost was not part of the referendum question. That plan will proceed and is expected to provide short-term relief in some of the buildings.
The referendum request also included nearly $3.1 million to buy about 12 acres across Aspen Drive from the district's southern campus as usable outdoor space and to provide for future growth needs beyond 10 years.