Why four new DuPage County tax increases could be in jeopardy

Four tax increases approved in November by DuPage County voters could be deemed invalid because the public was notified about the proposals three days too early.

To prevent that from happening, lawyers for the DuPage County Election Commission say they will ask a judge to intervene.

"I think there's a one-tenth of one percent chance that they (the referendum results) are in jeopardy," said Robert Saar, executive director of the election commission.

Word of the notification problem comes a month after the four affected taxing districts successfully asked voters for more money.

The taxing bodies temporarily left in limbo are Bloomingdale Park District, Helen M. Plum Memorial Public Library in Lombard, Salt Creek Elementary District 48 in Villa Park and Elmhurst, and Hinsdale Elementary District 181.

Bloomingdale Park District won voter approval in November to borrow $9.9 million to repair and improve three facilities.

Voters gave District 181 permission to borrow $53 million to build a new school.

District 48 was given the green light to borrow $8 million to repair three schools - Salt Creek Primary in Elmhurst, Stella May Swartz in Oakbrook Terrace and Albright Middle School in Villa Park.

Lombard voters, meanwhile, approved a property tax increase for Helen Plum library so it could replace its existing building with a new one.

Despite those results, bond attorneys working with Bloomingdale Park District and District 181 voiced concerns after learning that local newspapers published notifications about the ballot questions 33 days before the Nov. 8 election.

By law, the notices must be published no more than 30 days and not less than 10 days before an election.

"The bond guys are rightfully nervous about it because they're issuing 20-year bonds," Saar said. "Any time during that 20-year period somebody could raise an issue. That could cause serious problems for the bond house."

There are two ways to fix the problem.

The first is to ask state lawmakers to approve legislation saying it was OK to have the notification made three days early.

The commission wants to pursue a second option, which would be less costly and time consuming, by asking a DuPage judge for a declaratory judgment.

The commission's attorneys plan to argue that no harm was done to the public by having the notification made 33 days before the election.

"It's not a fatal error," Saar said. "It wasn't published late."

Meanwhile, the election results make it clear it's in the best interest of the public for the bond sales to proceed, he said.

If a judge agrees, Saar said, it would "make the bonds secure and everything would go forward."

Carrie Fullerton, the Bloomingdale Park District's executive director, says she's confident the election commission "will make every effort" to resolve the situation.

"I hope it gets remedied quickly," she said.

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