Hinsdale District 86 opposition movement eyeing board seats after defeating referendum
A grassroots movement that on Tuesday defeated Hinsdale District 86’s proposed $166 referendum is now looking to run candidates for four school board seats that will be contested in April.
“With a very high turnout, the vote against the referendum was also a complete vote of no confidence for the board and superintendent,” Burr Ridge resident Zach Mottl, chair of District 86 Can Do Better, told West Cook News. “They’ve now lost twice on this.”
In April 2107, voters rejected the district's $76 million referendum. Tuesday’s ballot question went down with 55 percent of the vote in an election with one of the highest midterm voter turnouts on record.
Mottl said the vote was in “stark contrast” to the many other referendums in Illinois approved by voters.
Winning four seats would give the group a majority on the seven-member Hinsdale board. With a majority, Mottl said the new members would use a “fiscally prudent” approach to make improvements to the district’s two high schools, Central and South, and balance the curriculum and student activities offered by the schools.
Many of the district’s residents have long argued that the district has for decades given preferential treatment to Central over South.
For its part, the district plans to discuss the referendum at its next board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 19. In a letter to the Hinsdale community after the outcome of the vote was clear, District 86 Superintendent Bruce Law said that he had spoken to Board President Bill Carpenter “and the next step is to discuss with the full Board at the next meeting what to do now that District 86 voters have said no to the referendum.”
Besides the district’s inequitable treatment of the two schools, the Do Better 86 group argued that more borrowing would increase already exorbitant property taxes.
“District 86 has played a significant role in our property taxes skyrocketing,” the District 86 Can Do Better website said. “Every year, they raise taxes by the maximum amount allowed by law. Now they want another $166 million, raising our taxes for the next 23 years, a total of $6,923 in additional property taxes for families in a $500,000 fair market value home. This would be the single-largest property tax increase this area has ever seen. When will it be enough?”
The fight over the referendum was bitter. In one instance, a leader of the “Yes” movement, Vote Yes For 86, was caught removing yard signs that urged voters to reject the referendum.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Vote Yes for 86 raised $59,150 by election day. A large chunk of that money came from the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association, an affiliate of the Illinois Education Association, which poured $30,000 into the campaign on Oct. 30.
Mottl said that his group had spent just under $50,000 to defeat the referendum.
With interest, the $166 million referendum would have cost taxpayers close to a quarter of a billion dollars.