After Two Defeated Referendums, District Considers February Ballot

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Byline: Kari Allen Daily Herald Staff Writer

If they take stock in numbers, officials at Dundee Township-based Unit District 300 should feel some encouragement.

Throughout Illinois, a number of districts have had more success passing referendums in primary elections than in consolidated elections.

It's a tactic District 300 officials are trying this time around..

After failed referendums to build new schools - one last March and one in November 1997 - the district is leaning toward a new approach.

It's considering placing two questions on the Feb. 23 ballot. One referendum would seek to build three new schools and to make additions to existing ones. The other would seek to staff those new schools. Together, the two issues would mean an $85 million tax increase.

In February, these questions wouldn't get lost in the shuffle of other school and city issues, officials say. In fact, outside of the few precincts that touch Elgin, it will be the only choice for voters to make.

Opening the polls in communities like Sleepy Hollow, East and West Dundee, Algonquin and Lake in the Hills - where there are no municipal primary elections - would cost taxpayers more than $50,000, Kane and McHenry County clerks estimate.

District 300 school board members are scheduled to decide tonight whether to put the issue on the February ballot. Their meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Dorothy deLacey Family Education Center, 1470 Kings Road, Carpentersville.

School officials also say a February rather than April vote could give them a jump-start on construction if the referendums are approved.

But there's another side: Primaries typically bring in fewer voters. Those who vote go to the polls with a singular purpose: to pass or defeat the school issue.

And, at least in other Illinois districts, it seems to be the pro-referendum proponents who show up.

Sixty-four percent of school-related questions that appeared on Illinois ballots in February 1997 passed. Voters approved only 54 percent of school-related questions in Illinois during the November 1997 off-year contest, despite its being a low-turnout election. …