Objections filed against effort for 'backdoor referendum' in District 59

  • A resident connected to a local Democratic organization has challenged an effort to let voters decide whether Elk Grove Township District 59 should borrow up to $20 million, in part to fund a new administration building.

    A resident connected to a local Democratic organization has challenged an effort to let voters decide whether Elk Grove Township District 59 should borrow up to $20 million, in part to fund a new administration building. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/21/2017 6:46 PM

A woman connected to a local Democratic organization has challenged an effort to let voters decide whether Elk Grove Township District 59 should borrow up to $20 million.

Esther Carrera, secretary for the Elk Grove Township Democrats, submitted the 427-page challenge Friday seeking to disqualify signatures collected by a group opposed to issuing the taxpayer-funded bonds. The group submitted the signatures to put the question on the March election ballot, known as a backdoor referendum.

 

Elk Grove Township Democratic Committeeman Ted Mason said the Carrera did not submit the objections on behalf of the organization, nor was it involved in the process. Carrera did not immediately return a phone call Monday.

The challenge disputes whether the group's petition of 4,309 signatures -- nearly 1,000 more than the required 10 percent of voters -- properly lists enough registered voters who reside in the district. Election officials in the Cook County clerk's office will examine the signatures and determine whether the bond issue will appear on the ballot.

In July, District 59 started the process to issue up to $20 million in bonds, though school board members agreed to borrow $15 million. For the average taxpayer with a $250,000 house, that would raise property taxes about $15 annually until 2024.

The bond money would help pay for a $17.2 million administration building, construction projects at three schools and shore up district finances during the next several years.

The district has a reserve fund of about $110 million -- enough to cover an entire year of operating costs -- but budget projections showed savings will be drawn down sharply. District 59 projected $100 million in deficit spending in the next five years, largely due to adding dozens of employees tasked with improving early education programs and classroom instruction.

Borrowing money for construction, which the district had planned to pay with reserve funds, would allow administrators more time to balance the budget. The district promises to stop all deficit spending by the budget year beginning in September 2020.

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