Reconnecting With Round Lake Voters

Maybe some don’t understand just what a big deal this was for Round Lake to pass the building bonds referendum, and at such a comfortable margin, let’s put it into perspective for some folks.

• Round Lake voters just had their taxes raised 10% when the State Finance Authority took away tax cap protection that every other taxpayer in Illinois (outside of Chicago) has.
• That 10% increase was without their consent or approval.
• Their taxes could still go up, without referendum, at any time, and for any reason the State Finance Authority sees fit if it elects to bond the district.

Still, a clear majority of nearly 56% supported that increase. Let’s put that into local perspective, a history of Round Lake Area Schools that many are familiar with:

• 60% of the community voted “no” in 2002 to extend the debt service extension base to address the short term debt issue.
• 52% of the community voted “no” in 2001 to levy a tax to pay for health insurance premiums of district employees.
• Only 51% , a mere 112 votes, voted to raise the education fund tax rate when asked again in 2000, 60% approved $14.5mil in building bonds.
• 67% of the community voted “no” in the 1999 question to increase the education fund tax rate.

Let’s put that into a broader perspective from just last night:

• A lower 55% majority of Fox Lake District 114 voters approved their building bond question.
• A slightly larger 57% majority approved Kildeer Countyside District 96’s tax rate increase.
• 71% of Fremont District 79 voters approved their building bond question.

They were the lucky ones though….

• 53% in affluent Linconshire-Prairie View District 103 said no to their tax rate increase.
• 51% in Mundelein HS District 120 said no to their tax rate increase for the second time.
• 54% in Winthrop Harbor District 1 said no to their tax rate increase despite the threat of state intervention by their superintendent (sound familiar?).
• 54% in affluent Barrington Unit District 220 said no to their building bond question and 57% said no to their education fund tax increase request.
• 59% in Antioch Grade School District 34 said no to their building bond question.

So of 10 school-related referenda in Lake County, Round Lake’s was one of only 4 to pass and we’re worried about a 55% margin? With a non-existent community referendum committee? With no mailings, signs, door to doors or other campaigning? In fact, we have to thank the Daily Herald for endorsing the referendum and the story on what could happen if it didn’t pass.

The fact is, the working class people in Round Lake, the folks who scrape by every week just to make ends meet voted in a sizable majority to raise their own taxes despite escalating taxes in virtually every segment of government, high gas prices, and after just having their taxes raised without their consent. While some folks may be getting raises and increased health benefits, resident upon resident in Round Lake is faced with either no health insurance at all, limited single insurance through their employer or ever increasing employee contribution costs for their health insurance that come out of each and every paycheck. Yet those residents still voted yes.

To those who came out and voted no, I completely understand, times are tough and you probably can’t afford it. I assure you I think the Board sought the most reasonable way to address this need and will issue these bonds, and pay them back, in a responsible manner that will hopefully see the impact on you quickly decrease over the life of the bonds. You didn’t approve of the referendum but I think the Board heard your voice and will be responsible with your tax dollars. I know I did.

The School Board heard from a full house of concerned Hispanic parents on Monday for the better part of three hours, until the crowd no longer had any questions, and one of their concerns was the overcrowding and climate conditions in the buildings — both issues to be addressed by this referendum. Many came up and said they would support it. I think the community saw there was an obvious need for this referendum and that by passing this question the district would have to operate within certain parameters to use this new bonding authority. For those reasons they voted for this referendum and for that the district should be unqualifiedly grateful.