With less than a week to go before the April 5 vote on the property tax referendum for Riverside-Brookfield High School some “Vote No” fliers have appeared on door knobs and in mail boxes of some residents.

It is the first sign of organized activity against the RB referendum, and it’s being organized by the Chicago-based anti-tax group the National Taxpayers United of Illinois.

While the Vote No forces have been slow to organize, the Vote Yes campaign, run by the group Communities United for RBHS (CURB), has been hard at work for more than a month.

For the last four Saturdays, CURB volunteers have gone door to door throughout District 208 seeking to identify pro-referendum voters and mobilize support for the referendum.

Supporters of the referendum have made appearances at many school and community events and have spoken to parent organizations at feeder schools. CURB has also sent out at least one glossy mailing urging a yes vote for the referendum.

The Vote No literature appears more rudimentary.

One piece of literature calling for a no vote is being distributed by the Chicago based anti-tax group the National Taxpayers United of Illinois (NTUI), which is led by longtime anti-tax crusader Jim Tobin, who lives in Berwyn.

Tobin ran for governor of Illinois in 1998 and for lieutenant governor in 2002 on the ticket of the Libertarian Party.

Most of the NTUI activity so far seems to have been concentrated in Riverside.

“We’re fighting the referendum on behalf of the people of Riverside,” said Christina Tobin, the daughter of Jim Tobin and the vice president of NTUI, who is coordinating the effort. Christina Tobin recently moved back to Illinois after running for Secretary of State in California last year as a Libertarian.

Tobin said that her group is campaigning against a number of local school referendums.

“We’re doing this simultaneously for Riverside-Brookfield and Oak Park as well,” Tobin said. “The taxpayers need representation, so we’re working with taxpayers and activists in both these areas who are distributing these flyers and getting the word out about the truth.”

The NTUI flier screams “Vote No” in large red letters. In bold black letters it says “Save $900 every year in property taxes.” In smaller print it says that estimate of the additional taxes the referendum would result in if passed is based on a home worth $600,000. Farther down in the flier, it says that the owner of a $600,000 would pay $889.68 in additional property taxes if the referendum passes.

Pro-referendum literature usually lists the impact on a home worth $300,000 which would be $418, according to RB officials.

Jim Tobin said Thursday that the $600,000 figure was “not high” for a home in Riverside and denied that the $900 figure was misleading. He said that people with homes worth less than $600,000 could easily figure how much the referendum would cost them if it is approved.

“People know how to add and subtract and multiply and divide,” Tobin said.

Tobin said while some flyers have been mailed to Brookfield and other communities in District 208, his group has been concentrating on Riverside, where some members of NTUI live.

“The action is in Riverside,” Tobin said.

The back of the NTUI flier lists the 100 top salaries at RB based on data from 2010. Tobin says that the salary information comes from information collected by Tobin’s Illinois Taxpayer Foundation.

It appears that the salary numbers include the 9.4 percent of salaries that RB teachers contribute toward their pensions. At RB, all but top administrators make their pension contributions out of their own paychecks.

Another Vote No piece has been arriving in some voters’ mailboxes in the past couple of days.

It is unclear who sent this piece out, but it is believed to from local opponents of the referendum. The piece lists the email address RBHStaxpayers@gmail.com. The Landmark sent an email to that address Thursday afternoon asking for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

District 208 Interim Superintendent David Bonnette received the mailing this week from RBHStaxpayers.com.

“There’s no identification as to who this comes from,” Bonnette said. “This is certainly a highly biased mailing.”

Bonnette was critical of the anonymous nature of the mailing.

“The citizens group (CURB) is registered with the clerk,” Bonnette said. “Are these people registered? We don’t even know who they even are. If someone is going to the expense of sending something out like this and they don’t indicate the source, then I think you discount it.”

RBHS send out its own mailing

Nearly two weeks ago many voters in District 208 received a brochure from RB titled “Important Referendum Information.” Many households received multiple copies of the brochure, often one for every registered voter in the household, with some residents saying that they received as many as four brochures.

It cost $1,000.75 for District 208 to mail 11,130 brochures, according to information the Landmark obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request. The bill for printing had not been received yet, according to Bonnette. The total quoted cost for printing and mailing was not to exceed $2,500, Bonnette said in his response to the Landmark’s FOIA.  

The color brochure printed on coated paper describes RB’s financial situation, outlines cuts that RB has made in recent years and lists the cuts that the RB administration has said would be made if the referendum fails. The brochure includes a message from RB principal Pamela Bylsma and a group photo of RB students who participated in RB’s annual Day of Service.

The brochure states that “Now, it is necessary to seek an operating fund increase to ensure the school’s continued educational quality.”

In an earlier version of the brochure obtained by the Landmark, the word “imperative” was used instead of “necessary.” The earlier version, which was never mailed to voters, also had “Support RBHS District 208” at the bottom of the front of the brochure, directly below “Vote April 5, 2011.”

Under state law school districts cannot use public funds to advocate for or against a referendum but public money can be used to distribute factual information about the issues involved in a referendum.

The changes in the original wording of the brochure were apparently made to make the brochure appear less like advocacy.

“It was written in a very neutral language,” Bonnette said.