Districts hoping state legislation will keep referendums valid

 
 

DuPage County taxing districts affected by a notification error during the fall election say they're "thrilled" that proposed state legislation could allow them to proceed with voter-approved projects.

But they won't know for up to 60 days whether Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign the measure.

"We're waiting for it to work its way through the legislative process," Hinsdale Elementary District 181 Superintendent Don White said Wednesday.

The fate of tax increases approved on Nov. 8 by voters in District 181 and three other districts are in jeopardy because the ballot questions were advertised three days too early in some suburban newspapers. The other affected entities are Bloomingdale Park District, Helen M. Plum Memorial Public Library in Lombard, and Salt Creek Elementary District 48 in Villa Park and Elmhurst.

In District 181, there's even a lawsuit challenging the validity of its referendum, where voters gave the district permission to borrow $53 million to build a new middle school.

"We've been continuing our planning for the project in hopes that some resolution would be reached either way -- legislatively or through the court system," White said. "So we're just excited that there might be something that can resolve that and we can get back to our project planning."

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State law requires notices to 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 because of a clerical error by the DuPage County Election Commission.

As part of the legislation, which has been approved by both the Illinois House and the Senate, the state election code will 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 Nov. 8 election.

A spokeswoman said Rauner is reviewing the proposal.

Officials with the affected districts said they don't know when the governor will act. The hope is that the legislation will be signed soon.

White said District 181 wants to start the bidding process for its project in mid- to late February "at the very latest."

"A delay in planning could mean a delay of a year in starting the project and getting our kids in the school," said White.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The district's current timeline has the school opening in fall 2018.

District 48 officials also say they want a resolution soon to avoid a lengthy construction delay.

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.

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