Four DuPage tax increases still hang in limbo

The fate of four tax increases DuPage County voters approved in the November election continues to hang in limbo because the referendum questions were advertised three days too early in some suburban newspapers.

Officials with the effected taxing bodies said Friday attorneys still are working to correct the notification error - and preserve the tax increases.

The problem, discovered last month, affects the Nov. 8 ballot questions voters approved for Bloomingdale Park District, Helen M. Plum Memorial Public Library in Lombard, Hinsdale Elementary District 181 and Salt Creek Elementary District 48 in Villa Park and Elmhurst.

It's left officials in those agencies uncertain of how to proceed with a variety of projects - or even if they can. And, in at least one case, it's already triggered a lawsuit to overturn the election results.

"I can't go out to bid on a project that I haven't secured the bonds for," said Carrie Fullerton, Bloomingdale Park District's executive director.

Park district officials were hoping to start engineering work for a planned improvement of the Springfield Park ball fields. But everything is on hold, despite voters giving the district approval to borrow $9.9 million to repair and improve three facilities.

Voters in Hinsdale, meanwhile, gave District 181 permission to borrow $53 million to build a new middle school.

But now the district is facing a lawsuit challenging the results of the election because of the notification problem.

By law, the notices must be published no more than 30 days and not less than 10 days before an election. But local newspapers published notifications about the four ballot questions 33 days before the election.

According to the lawsuit filed against District 181, the school district's referendum is invalid because of improper notice being published by the DuPage County Election Commission. The lawsuit also contends there is no "cure" available to the election commission or the district to make the election valid.

Superintendent Don White said the district's attorney is reviewing the case and exploring options.

"We're hopeful we'll be able to respect the outcome of the election," White said. "We obviously appreciate the support the community showed for the project, and we hope to continue to move it forward."

An attorney for the DuPage Election Commission said he plans to ask a judge next week to allow the results of the referendums to stand.

District 48 Superintendent John Correll said Salt Creek officials still hope for "a positive resolution sometime soon."

The district was given the OK 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.

"If not resolved soon, our planned projects would be most likely held until the summer of 2018 rather than 2017, which was our original intent," Correll said in an email.

In Lombard, voters approved a property tax increase to construct a new building to house the Helen Plum Library. Calls to library officials weren't returned Friday.

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