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Our view: Referendums on the horizon

The knee jerk reaction some of us have to tax increase referendums is, “No way!”

On the flip side are those of us who, upon hearing about a pending school district referendum, immediately scream “It’s for the children! Yes! Yes!”

This spring, there will be several referendums on the ballot for voters to consider. Referendums should not be viewed as something horrible that someone is trying to shove down the public’s collective throat. Rather, referendums should be viewed for what they are: A chance for voters to directly participate in governance. Remember, a referendum is a question to the public. It is a request for the public to decide policy.

The April election is months away and voters have plenty of time to get informed about an issue they can decide directly with their vote. The final day for referendums to get on the ballot is Feb. 5. Among the ballot questions that will be posed this spring are the following:

• Nunda Township will ask voters for $15 million to buy land that township officials believe should be preserved as open space. Voters defeated similar proposals in 2004 and 2007. If the referendum is approved, township officials would have several financing options. If a flat tax rate schedule was selected, the referendum could cost about $14 more a year for every $100,000 of assessed market value of a home.

• Marengo-Union Elementary School District 165 will ask voters to approve a 48-cent increase in the tax rate. The increase would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $320 more a year. The district has the lowest property tax rate of all elementary schools in McHenry County, and the only one less than $2. Seventeen teaching and other full-time positions were eliminated since the 2007-08 school year, saving $825,000 a year.

• Cary School District 26 will ask voters to approve a $17-million bond issue. If approved, $10 million would be used for capital improvement projects such as replacing the roofs at Three Oaks and Deerpath schools as well as replacing older buses, outdated technology equipment, maintenance and sidewalk and parking improvements. The remaining $7 million would be used as an “internal” bank for short-term borrowing. The referendum would cost the owner of a $300,000 home $47 to $85 more a year depending on financing options.

• The Spring Grove Fire Protection District will ask voters to approve a tax rate increase of 9 cents. The referendum would cost the owner of a $300,000 home about $90 more a year. The district would use the tax increase to reduce deficit spending, maintain 24/7 staffing at current levels and replace vehicles and equipment.

Now’s the time to start learning about these tax increase requests, so you can make an informed decision at the polls.

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