A referendum on whether Elk Grove Township District 59 should issue up to $20 million in bonds has been canceled.
School board members voted 4-3 Thursday to pull the question off the primary ballot, abandoning the district's intent to borrow money to pay for construction projects and help balance the budget.
The bond issue was put on the ballot after residents -- upset about the district's test scores, a potential tax increase and a new $16.3 million administration building -- gathered enough petition signatures in August to let voters decide on March 20.
Many of those residents continued their criticism before the vote Thursday, despite the school board's expected action of canceling the bonds and therefore not raising taxes.
"This referendum is about so much more than a vote on the bonds," said Arlington Heights resident Mary Vicars. "It's a vote on what residents think of this administration and the board."
Board members Karen Osmanski, Janice Krinsky, Sunil Bhave and Sharon Roberts voted to remove the bond issue from the ballot. Barbara Somogyi, Tim Burns and Mardell Schumacher opposed removing it.
School board members who supported pulling the referendum off the ballot said the district's budget has stabilized and that it was important to move on from the divisive issue.
"It's become a big distraction, and I'd like to get back to the business of children," said Krinsky, who asked for the vote on abandoning the referendum.
Board members who wanted to keep the ballot question wanted to respect the efforts of residents who sought to gather signatures, even the though the district no longer intends to issue bonds.
The financial outlook has changed since last summer, when budget projections indicated the district's healthy reserve fund would be largely depleted within five years. Now, projections indicate the district will have a balanced budget and about $70 million in reserves after the 2019-20 school year.
That's in part because the district plans to cut about $10 million in costs over the next two years. There's also more certainty with state and federal funding, officials said. Administrators are expected to unveil details of those cost-cutting proposals at a meeting Feb. 26.
Board member Sharon Roberts thanked residents who gathered the petition signatures and forced the bond issue onto the ballot.
"I think that made the administration and board look harder internally at what we do," she said.
Bond: Dist. 59 plans to cut $10 million in costs over 2 years