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Election 2016: Voters will face six local referendums in March

While there may not be any candidates to choose from next month, voters in some of our areas will be faced with referendums ranging from bonds for a new school in Burbank to whether there should be video gambling in Willow Springs.

The few races for state Senate and the Illinois House all feature candidates running unopposed in their primary and, so far, in the November general election.

In Congress, Democrat U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski is the lone candidate from either party on the ballot in the 3rd Congressional District.

State senators Martin Sandoval (D-11th) and Christine Radogno (R-41st) are both running unopposed next month and neither has an opponent on the ballot for November.{{more}}

In the Illinois House, Democrats Silvana Tabares and Mike Zalewski are unopposed in the 21st and 22nd districts, respectively. Republican James Durkin (R-82nd) is also unopposed.

Referendums are another story on March 15, when voters in Summit, Willow Springs, Brookfield, Burbank and Forest View and Stickney will have the chance to vote on ballot questions.

Voters in Burbank will have two school questions to vote on next month.

Burbank School District 111 is asking voters to approve a $27 million bond sale so the district can replace Burbank Elementary School, while Reavis High School District 220 is asking voters to increase the education fund rate from $1.91 to $2.20 per $1,000 of equalized assessed valuation.

Voters in Summit will be asked to approve Home Rule status for the village.

Willow Springs voters will also be asked two questions on the March 15 ballot. Voters will be asked whether the village should authorize video gaming and whether the village should join the Tri-State Fire Protection District.

The Stickney-Forest View Library District is asking voters to approve a $1.2 million bond sale for renovations to the library.

Voters in Brookfield will be asked to approve a $22 million bond sale for an eight-year street improvement program.

Reavis High School Supt. Dan Riordan said it was the first education fund tax increase requested by the district in at least 50 years.

“I’m hoping the homeowners and taxpayers will support it,” he said. “Even if the 29-cent increase is approved, we will still have the lowest tax rate of nearby school districts.”

The increase would add about $79 a year to the property tax bill to a home worth $150,000.

He said the increase was needed “to fill the gap. It gives us room to grow.”

He said that if rejected, the Burbank school would have to make cuts starting in the 2017-18 school year.

“Our goal would be not to cut next year,” he said. “But we would definitely have to make cuts in two years.”

But Riordan really hopes that he can avoid cutting any programs.

“If we are unsuccessful in March, we will try again in November.”

He said the district would have an information presentation at its next school board meeting on Feb. 16.

Burbank voters will also have to decide on approving a $27 million bond sale to construct a new school in District 111.

“The school is more than 70 years old,” said Supt. Franzy Fleck. “We weighed whether to put millions into repairs or add a few million and build a new school. We decided building a new school would be better for us.”

He said the plan would be to build the new school near the existing school and then demolish the old school.

“We do not want to disrupt the students,” Fleck said.

Fleck said the bond sale would add $36.81 per year to the property tax bill for a home valued at $150,000.

The district has scheduled a series of informational meetings about the bond sale: Feb. 17 6 p.m. at Burbank School; March 1 9 a.m. at Burbank School; March 1 1 p.m. at Burbank School; March 2 9 a.m. at the District Office; March 2 1 p.m. at the District Office; March 8 7 p.m. at the District Office.

Willow Springs decided to ask voters to decide whether the village should start allowing video gaming in the village.

The village board took no action a couple of years ago on the subject and community feelings seem split on the idea, said village manager William Murray.

“We sent out 2,300 surveys about video gaming and got more than 900 back,” said Murray. “The results were close so we decided to ask the voters and let them decide.”

The village also will be asking voters to go ahead and actually become part of the Tri-State Fire Protection District.

The village contracted its fire and ambulance service from Tri-State in 2013 and the contract expires in September.

“Tri-State is willing to take us in and make it permanent,” said Murray. “Any tax increase needed as part of the annexation would not go into effect until 2018.”

He said joining the district would be a lot cheaper for the village than trying to recreate its own fire department.

“Our equipment is well past its useful life,” he said.

He said two town hall informational meetings are being planned between now and the March 15 referendum.

The Stickney-Forest View Library will get renovations starting in April. The extent of those renovations will depend on whether voters in Forest View, Stickney and Central Stickney approve a $1.2 million bond sale.

“The plan will go forward,” said Library Director Heather Shlah. “If the bond sale is unsuccessful, we will go to plan B. The more expensive items would be cut.”

She said the library district has been saving for the renovation and has $700,000 to help pay for the renovations.

“We’re calling it a space redesign,” she said. “Patrons asked us for more private meeting spaces. For lounge space. For dedicated areas for teens and kids.”

She said the last renovations at the library were in 2004.

“This plan would bring us into the 21st century,” she said.

The bond sale would be retired in 10 years, she said. The estimated cost for the average homeowner in the district was $24 per year.

“We’re planning on a lot of bang for the buck,” she said.

In Summit, Mayor Sergio Rodriguez did not return calls and email messages, but in December village officials decided to ask voters to grant Home Rule status in a binding vote on March 15.

Proponents at the time said home-rule would give the village the ability to create better business opportunities, lower property taxes and get better interest rates.

In Brookfield, voters will be asked to approve a $22 million bond sale that would pay for street improvements over the next eight years.

A call to the village manager was not returned, but on its website the village said the estimated tax impact would be $410 per year for a $200,000 home.

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