Local

Crystal Lake-based District 155 race: 3 newcomers to join school board (with video)

CRYSTAL LAKE – Three newcomers will join the Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 Board, according to the unofficial election results available Tuesday night.

Out of the crowded field of nine candidates, preschool teacher Amy Blazier, former educator and state Rep. Rosemary Kurtz and Adam Guss, a technical supervisor with Comcast, were set to take the three four-year terms.

With just shy of 22,000 votes counted, Blazier had about 23.7 percent of the vote, Kurtz had 19.7 percent and Guss had 13.8 percent, according to unofficial results from McHenry and Lake counties. McHenry County's numbers included early and mail-in votes while the one Lake County precinct did not. Neither county's numbers includes provisional or late arriving mail-in ballots.

The district includes all or parts of Crystal Lake, Bull Valley, Cary, Fox River Grove, Lake in the Hills, Lakewood, Oakwood Hills and Prairie Grove.

The candidate with the next closest number of votes was Brian Pelz, formerly a District 155 science teacher who transitioned last year to the informational technology industry. Pelz had 12.9 percent of the vote, about 200 votes shy of Guss's 3,015 votes.

The sole incumbent running for re-election, Karen Whitman, trailed behind them with 1,777 votes, or 8.1 percent of the vote.

"Maybe the current board [will see this and] they'll know the community is upset about the bleachers, which I think is just the peak of the iceberg," Kurtz said. Blazier and Guss did not return calls for comment Tuesday night.

The highly competitive race comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the owners of properties neighboring Crystal Lake South High School who argued that the expanded bleachers violate city zoning laws by being too close to property lines and too large.

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case back in January, more than a month after the school district first filed a request for special use permits with the city of Crystal Lake and more than a year and half after the bleachers went up as part of a $1.18 million expansion.

The district filed the zoning request after an appellate court upheld a McHenry County judge's ruling that the district should have gone through the city zoning process before building the bleachers.

“Very, very clearly in my mind, some pretty serious mistakes were made,” Guss said at a candidate forum in March. “We have to fix it. I know the court case is sitting right now waiting on the Illinois Supreme Court, and I don’t know how soon that’s coming. I think that we need to start fixing that before that case is necessarily done.”

Kurtz named transparency has her biggest priority moving into her first term on the board. She'd like see the board open up its meetings board and get the public more involved, something that "could have advised and prevented … these bad PR decisions.”

Also high on several candidates list was the previous board’s decision to keep raising the property tax levy each year despite the district having more than a year's worth of cash on hand, according to its 2013-14 annual financial statement.

"Everyone is tightening their belts tn these economic times," Blazier said in her Northwest Herald candidate questionnaire. "It does not seem District 155 is doing this. I will not support levy increases. We need to look for ways to trim the budget if necessary. I believe the district needs to live within their means. Taxpayers cannot be expected to pay higher and higher taxes."

Kurtz also voiced her opposition to raising the levy. Guss also agreed that keeping the levy level was his goal, although he added that circumstances may shift over the next four years.

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