Voters again shoot down LTHS building referendum
By Tony Graf email@example.com April 5, 2011 9:40PM
Jamison Cullen (from left) and Roy Adcock, part of the One 4 LTHS referendum campaign, check early election results with Kim Brehm, director of public relations for Lockport Township High School District, at Mamma Onesta's Restaurant on Tuesday in Lockpo
Updated: July 29, 2011 12:21AM
LOCKPORT — Voters on Tuesday rejected Lockport Township High School’s referendum proposal for a new Cedar Road campus, marking the sixth defeat for the plan since 2006.
With all votes except provisional and some absentee ballots counted Tuesday, the count was 54.5 percent voting no, and 45.5 percent voting yes.
Crowding at both the East and Central campuses has been a perennial problem, and the district has sought voter approval for a new campus with several different proposals in the past five years.
The district also has expressed concerns about maintenance and safety issues at the century-old Central Campus in downtown Lockport. District officials say Central is a safe building. However, this referendum proposal sought to replace Central with the new Cedar Road campus.
After the last referendum defeat in 2009, district leaders delayed the process and instead went on the road, listening to residents in all communities in the district — Crest Hill, Lockport and Homer Glen.
In forums across the district, residents told leaders that they wanted a plan that would not raise taxes. For this referendum, the district came up with such a plan.
Tuesday’s plan would not have increased taxes, district leaders said. Instead, the bond portion of the tax rate would have stayed the same after the current bonds are paid off. Freezing the current tax rate would have generated the necessary funds for construction.
And to ensure that there would be no tax increase, the district had scaled back its Cedar Road building plans.
Also, the district is currently in line to potentially receive a state construction grant that would go toward the new campus. The district applied for the grant in 2004.
Before the election results came in Tuesday night, Superintendent Garry Raymond spoke of the value of a new Cedar Road campus.
“Obviously the biggest thing is it provides a safe and orderly place for our kids to attend school. That’s always No. 1 — safety,” Raymond said. “And of course with today’s curriculum, it gives us an opportunity to enhance the learning and teaching process, which is always key as well.”
With this plan, the district was seeking the ultimate goal of two four-year high schools, increasing opportunities for extracurricular activities. Also, the district had developed a “soft boundary” plan, so that residents in a large region in the middle of the district could choose which campus they would attend — East or Cedar Road.
Those were key components of the plan, along with the element of no tax increase.
“We started out by asking our financial people: How much money can we borrow with the current payments that we’re making? That is — no increase in taxes,” said Ron Svara, school board president.
“When we had our three summits — in Crest Hill, Homer and Lockport — everybody was talking about no increase in taxes,” Svara said.
The plan did not include a tax increase. Nevertheless, the national economy remains weak. And voters polled Tuesday by The Herald-News expressed concerns about the prospects of continuing with the current rate on the tax bill, regardless of the no-increase component.
The Herald-News will review their opinions — from Crest Hill, Lockport and Homer Glen — in a more in-depth story later this week.