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Referendum debate practically nonexistent in District 156

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 4:57 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 11:51 p.m. CDT

McHENRY – In sharp contrast to the atmosphere that surrounded District 156’s failed referendum attempts two years ago, the lead-up to a vote on another referendum for the district has been subdued.

Bob Anderson, a frequent letter-to-the-editor writer who sharply opposed the failed referendums in November 2010 and April 2011, thinks he might have the only sign in the district opposing the new push.

If the referendum passes Tuesday, the District 156 school board plans on using most of the $2.2 million it saved through refinancing $29 million in bonds to update the schools’ technology. A smaller portion would be used to install security measures such as cameras.

If it fails, voters will see their property taxes go down. The owner of a $200,000 house would save an estimated $14 a year.

“This is a rare chance to have a reduction in your tax bill,” said Anderson, adding that he’d rather see the savings go toward paying off the bonds.

The quiet before the election isn’t accidental, said Steve White, the chairman of Citizens for District 156.

White co-chaired the 2010 pro-referendum group, District 156 – Continue the Legacy, and is the president of the McHenry High School Booster Club, which serves both campuses.

“We’re purposely trying to not make a big issue of this,” White said.

The group – which is a consolidation of the two pro-referendum groups from two years ago – is made up of about 30 to 40 people, mostly parents but also business and community leaders. They’ve been getting the word out to other parents, including parents of elementary-aged children who eventually will move into the district, he said.

White said he is not encountering a lot of opposition, even from those who typically are against referendums.

Part of it is that technology is a recognized problem at the district, he said. Most of the computers are at least 7 years old.

“In technology years, it’s forever,” White said. “The phone I’m talking to you on right now is probably more powerful than some of those computers.”

The district also has come a long way since 2011, school board Secretary Pro Tem Steve Bellmore said. He’s in favor of the referendum.

Bellmore and board members Tim Byers and Beth Taylor ran together after the failed referendum attempt in 2010 as the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility slate.

That still applies, Bellmore said.

“I’m always watching out for the taxpayers, and I’m watching out for the kids’ education at the same time,” he said. “I’ll still run on what I ran on two years ago: fiscal responsibility.”

District 156 includes parts of McHenry, McCullom Lake, Lakemoor, Ringwood, Holiday Hills and Bull Valley.

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