State lawmakers move to keep DuPage referendum results valid

State lawmakers from DuPage County are seeking legislation that would allow four property tax increases approved in November to stand.

Referendum proposals approved on Nov. 8 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 are in jeopardy because they were advertised three days too early in some suburban newspapers.

But in a proposal approved by the Illinois House on Monday, the state election code would be amended to make notice of a ballot question valid "if given more than 30 days but not more than 35 days prior to the general election held on Nov. 8, 2016."

The measure needs to be approved by the state Senate and signed by the governor to take effect.

Currently, state law requires notices to be published no more than 30 days and not less than 10 days before an election. But because of a clerical error by the DuPage County Election Commission, local newspapers published notifications about the four ballot questions 33 days before the election.

State Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard said the proposed legislation is "a very tailored solution" to the issues that arose in DuPage during the November election.

"It will allow the various districts to issue the bonds that the people of their districts have asked them to issue - and to do so with no question about legality hanging over the bond issuance," Breen said on Monday.

Before Monday, the notification error left officials in the affected agencies uncertain of how to proceed with a variety of projects - or even if they can.

Officials with Bloomingdale Park District and District 48 both said they were waiting for the problem to be resolved before borrowing any money for their approved projects.

The notification problem has resulted in a lawsuit being filed against District 181.

Voters gave the district permission to borrow $53 million to build a new middle school. But according to the lawsuit, the referendum is invalid because of the improper notice.

Meanwhile, an attorney for the DuPage Election Commission said he was planning to ask a judge this week to allow the results of the four referendums to stand.

Breen said it makes sense to seek a legislative fix for this specific issue. He said voters were given "adequate" notice about the ballot questions before the election.

"No one likes taxes, but the people have spoken," Breen said. "They wanted these referendums passed. So the will of the people needs to be respected."

He said he expects the Senate to act this week on the measure.

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