A Referendum Is Born

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The Belvidere school board decides to ask for a "bare minimum" referendum to keep after-school activities alive.
The Belividere school board has decided to put aside plans to build new elementary schools, add reading teachers or improve technology.
Right now they're focusing soley on preventing budget cuts. That's why they voted unanimously to request a 35 cent tax rate increase in April.
"One step at a time. We've got to get this referendum first. We'll have to worry about the future when the future comes," says Board Member Doug Smiley.
The board took into account massive amounts of input from community members on what kind of referendum they would be willing to support. The dominant message was keep it simple.
Belvidere Parent and Booster Club President Pamela Barr says, "First it was 35 cents and then they came back and they kind of bulked some things together and I think it added some confusion to the community and then they came back with the threat of cutting sports and so I think it just kind of adds to the element of distrust and I think that we need to reestablish that with the community and the board."
But some fear this could be the last shot they'll have to raise education funding for a long time to come.
"I'm very concerned that we won't be able to increase an ed. fund referendum for a long time, this has been 32 years since we were last time successful so I'm very concerned about that," says Board Member Julia Norem.
Norem proposed asking for a 45 cent referendum to make other improvements to the disctrict. The board shot that outcue 4 t0 3.
The district expects continued growth and Superintendent Don Schlomann says that will mean continued referendums. But right now the board can't risk asking for more improvements and end up dropping the ball on athletics and arts.
The 35-cent tax increase would generate $2.8 million, just enough to open and operate the new Belividere North High School, without any budget cuts.
The task turns now to educating the public before election day on April 17th.