No. That was the overwhelming verdict delivered by voters Tuesday as the request to raise the property-tax rate for Riverside-Brookfield High School went down to a crushing defeat.
With 28 of 28 precincts reporting, more than three quarters of voters – 5,682 or 76.76 percent – cast no votes compared to just 1,720 or 23.24 percent yes votes.
Many voters said they are already taxed enough and just could not, or would not, pay any more.
Samantha Lynch, of Brookfield, was typical.
“Our taxes, everything, just seems to be going up and they need to make adjustments,” said Lynch on Tuesday afternoon after voting at S.E. Gross School in Brookfield. “They need to make adjustments. Taxes keep going up and up, and you can’t vote yes for that every single time. Our kids are going to be going there, but I think they need to make adjustments in other areas.”
The school was asking for an operating rate increase of 44 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation.
For some who voted no, it was not an easy decision. Some said it was the first time they had ever voted against a referendum for schools.
“I think taxes are really high, but I thought it was a hard call, and I think that the school probably needs to do a better job of showing that it’s considered all alternatives,” said Jane McCahill, of Riverside, after voting against the referendum at the Riverside Township Hall.
The referendum campaign was at times bitter and acrimonious. The Vote Yes campaign sent volunteers door-to-door for four straight Saturdays. The Yes campaign targeted parents of school-age children and made a special effort to appeal to young voters. It actively recruited student volunteers, 18-year-old voters at RB and also targeted recent RB graduates who were away at college.
The Vote No campaign got organized late, but flooded houses in Riverside with fliers and a mailer in the last days of the campaign. The National Taxpayers United of Illinois was behind the fliers and an anonymous group was behind the mailer.
On Monday some voters throughout the district received a tape recorded robocall from an Alexandria, Va.-based political action committee Americans in Contact PAC (AICPAC).
The call said “A massive hike in your property taxes is coming unless you and your neighbors vote against it this Tuesday April 5.”
The call made no specific reference to the District 208, but said the tax increase would result in homeowners paying millions of dollars in higher property taxes. The call stated that it was not connected to any candidate or campaign committee.
A call to Americans in Contact PAC was not immediately returned. The mission of AICPAC is, according to its website, “to identify social and fiscal conservatives throughout America and engage them at the Grassroots level in the political process of elections and legislation at all levels of Government (local, county, state and federal).”
The campaign was also fought out, often in vituperative fashion, on the Landmark’s website in the comments section of news articles.
Posters on both sides, many of them anonymous, attacked each other and often cast aspersions on their opponent’s character and motivations.