Harlem Tries Again

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The last time voters in the Harlem school district passed a referendum was in 1989.

In just seven days, the Harlem school district's future is yet again in the hands of voters. Here’s a look at what is different the fifth time around.

X marks the spot this November 2; a “yes” or “no” vote decides what direction the Harlem school district is heading. Since the last referendum attempt in March, the board has cut $2.2 million from the budget but the projected deficit by the end of June is still $4 million.

Superintendent Dr. Pat DeLuca says, "The board realizes there are tough economic times so that is why we think a 40 cent referendum is more palatable."

Unlike the past, this 40-cent referendum is phased-in to homeowners over five years. Dr. DeLuca says that would mean the ballot would be referendum free till 2009. While money may eliminate deficit spending, the past can't be erased.

With the teachers’ contract dispute still to be left to be settled by an arbitrator, voters may be taking more with them to the polls.

Dr. DeLuca tells 23 News, "People could vote emotionally as to what they felt in the strike."

Harlem parent Patti Lawrence was quite vocal during the teachers strike. Days before the community votes she has this to say to voters.

"Voting “no” will not get back at teachers. No matter if this passes or not they will still get paid. The biggest thing is that a “no” vote would mean the kids will loose."

Patti has been busy getting information out to voters to make an educated decision. Unlike past referenda, the signs of support are missing especially from the district. This time around Illinois school districts have a new ethics law, limiting their participation before a vote.

Dr. DeLuca says, “We can’t promote the referendum. We can give the facts. We don't want to give the impression of a “yes” vote cause that's against the ethics legislation."

The district is hoping this time there are more people like Patti at the polls so future cuts won't be so deep.

A referendum rally takes place Wednesday night at the Forest Hills Lodge at 7 p.m. Those who want more information about how the phase-in impacts homeowners are encouraged to attend.