DuPage voters asked many questions, but few about tax increases

Updated 2/14/2011 10:34 PM

It's a tough time to ask anyone for money. Just ask the taxing districts in DuPage County.

Of the 14 questions set to appear on various ballots April 5, only a few are asking taxpayers to dig deeper into their pocketbooks. Most simply want voters to give their 2 cents on a variety of issues.

Still, supporters of a measure that would impact property tax bills in Medinah School District 11 say the district can't afford to wait.

School officials are seeking permission to borrow about $8 million for upgrades to two buildings and to eliminate a third. It's the same measure voters rejected in November.

Mark Layne, a parent with the group called "Now is the Time in Medinah School District 11," said the buildings have issues that must be corrected.

"With the age of the buildings, something has to be done relatively soon to stop the bleeding," he said. "The purpose of the referendum is to make the district more efficient."

Most of the $8 million would pay for an addition to the Medinah Intermediate School to house elementary students and eliminate the need for the existing primary school. Remaining money would fund security and traffic safety upgrades to Medinah Middle School.

If approved, school district property taxes would increase by roughly $156 a year for the owner of a $350,000 home.

Elsewhere, voters are being asked to weigh in on proposals that could save them money.

"The goal is to reduce costs and improve service," Wayne Township Supervisor Tom Arends said of a ballot question asking voters in Wayne and Bloomingdale townships if they want township government to negotiate a waste-hauling contract for residential properties in unincorporated parts of DuPage.

Wood Dale, Oak Brook and Darien also are asking voters for the authority to shop for a cheaper source of electricity. If the voters approve, the municipalities will be able to seek bids from competing energy companies on behalf of residents and small businesses.

Two other cost-savings measures will appear on the ballot in West Chicago.

The first question asks voters whether to eliminate the elected office of city treasurer and consolidate the duties with those of existing staff. The other question seeks permission to charge sellers a $10-per-transfer real estate transfer tax. The tax wouldn't be used as a revenue generator, but as a tool to help ensure all debts owed the city are paid before the seller moves, officials said.

Wood Dale also has an advisory question about a proposal to build a grade separation at Irving Park and Wood Dale roads. The city wants permission to proceed with planning and construction, but only if the project is "fully paid for through federal and/or state funding."

Meanwhile, Lombard is asking voters whether they want a binding referendum in the future about term limits on the village president, clerk and trustees.

And in Wheaton, an advisory ballot question can help settle the debate over whether public money should be used to reopen the Wheaton Grand Theater. The nonbinding proposal asks if the city should put up to $150,000 a year toward the shuttered downtown theater.

Jim Mathieson, chairman of the Friends of the Theatre committee, said the hope is that the city eventually will make funding available to whoever reopens the theater. He said an operational theater would benefit downtown Wheaton.

"We would like to see something in that space other than a vacant property," Mathieson said. "The purpose is to help downtown and keep it alive and kicking,"