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BREAKING: Oswego School District 308 voters reject tax hike referendum

Measure fails by margin of 1,231 votes

Voters rejected an operating fund referendum from Oswego School District 308 that would have increased property taxes with a unofficial total of 8,689 no votes to 7,458 yes votes, in the Tuesday, March 17 primary.
Voters rejected an operating fund referendum from Oswego School District 308 that would have increased property taxes with a unofficial total of 8,689 no votes to 7,458 yes votes, in the Tuesday, March 17 primary.

Oswego School District 308 voters rejected the district's second attempt to pass an operating fund tax increase in balloting Tuesday,

Final, unofficial vote totals showed 8,689 voters cast no ballots to 7,458 yes ballots, according to information provided by the Kendall, Kane and Will county clerk's office.

The district's Board of Education had asked voters to approve a 30-cent property tax rate increase to support the district's operating fund, the same amount the voters rejected in a referendum on the April 2019 ballot.

According to information previously provided by the district, the referendum would have cost the owner of a home valued at $200,000 an additional $182 annually, while the owner of a home valued at $250,000 would have paid an extra $232. The annual property tax bill for a $300,000 home would have increased by $282.

The board sought passage of the referendum to offset the need for further budget cuts and fee hikes.

Voter turnout saw a marked increase from the April 2019 vote. The unofficial, final tally from the failed April 2019 referendum, showed a total 4,411 no votes to 4,085 yes votes, according to information provided by the Kendall, Kane and Will county clerk's offices.

OSD 308 Superintendent Dr. John Sparlin issued a statement Tuesday night, thanking voters and community volunteers.

"We would like to thank all the voters who took time to learn about the referendum and what it meant for our district. We would also like to express our gratitude to the many community members who volunteered and dedicated their time to educating our community on the district’s challenges," Sparlin said. "We will continue to do what we’ve always done, which is providing a great education to our students."

Board of Education President Lauri Doyle also thanked community volunteers for their efforts.

"I'd like to thank all of the volunteers who spent time to work on making their community a better place for the kids, I know you put a lot of time and effort into this endeavor, and I really appreciate the support you've shown for all of our community," Doyle said. "I know that we're going to continue to be able to provide a great education to our kids, and we will figure out how to make everything go the way it needs to. It won't look the way we hope it can, but we will still be able to provide a great education."

When asked if further budget cuts and fee increases were coming, Doyle said that the board would need to meet and review financial projections now that the referendum has failed before being able to determine whether or not further cuts and fee increases are needed.

Right now, Doyle said, the priority is ensuring that students are still getting their education and what they need in the next few weeks, during the shutdown of schools due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

In a statement to the group's Facebook page, the leaders of the Vote Yes To Invest in 308 community group said, "We are devastated that the 308 Operating Fund Referendum came up short again. Members of the Vote Yes to Invest team have spent the past two months connecting with the community, explaining the challenges the district has faced over the past decade and the extraordinary efforts to get back on track, as well as how today's vote would affect the students and schools going forward."

"We know that people care about this district, and it's disheartening to see these results," the statement continued, including concerns over possible future cuts and the district's use of debt extension bonds.

"Even though the referendum failed, an incredible group of community members including young parents, single adults, retired seniors, Democrats and Republicans have come together, united in their fight for the best education possible for the 18,000 students in SD308."

The referendum failure was the district's third in recent years. In November 2018, Kendall County voters turned down a referendum placed on the ballot by the district that would have established a countywide sales tax to generate additional revenues for all county school districts.

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