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Voters approve District 31 tax increase, according to early results

West Northfield School District 31 Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson, right, hugs referendum supporter Susan Harrison Tuesday at Rocky Vander's Cafe in Prospect Heights. (Jeff Danna, Tribune reporter)

West Northfield School District 31 Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson, right, hugs referendum supporter Susan Harrison Tuesday at Rocky Vander's Cafe in Prospect Heights. (Jeff Danna, Tribune reporter)

Voters approved a ballot measures Tuesday to increase the West Northfield School District 31 tax rate, according to the Cook County Clerk’s unofficial election results.

The measure appears to  have passed by 303 votes, with all 10 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. District officials said some mail-in votes have yet to be counted, but they said the number likely isn’t enough to change the result.

“At this point, I’m going to consider it a win,” said Superintendent Alexandra Nicholson. “I want to thank the community of District 31 for supporting our students.”

The referendum’s apparent success eliminates the need for officials to make $1 million worth of program and personnel cuts over the next two years, Nicholson said.

Although they asked for an additional $1.8 million, officials anticipate an additional $1.55 million in revenue per year from the tax rate increase due to projected property value declines. Property owners can expect to pay an additional $89 per $100,000 of their property’s value, administrators said.

Nicholson and referendum supporters gathered Tuesday night at Rocky Vander’s Cafe in Prospect Heights to watch results. With every new update, cheers erupted throughout the room.

Although a similar referendum failed last year, referendum supporters said they worked extra hard to get out the word about the measure this year.

“This wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t push from the beginning,” said Susan Harrison, who worked with the pro-referendum committee Citizens for District 31.

In particular, administrators and referendum supporters reached out to seniors and residents without children in the schools. Nicholson held meetings in subdivisions like Mission Hills, where the predominantly senior population largely voted against the referendum last year.

Pista Madoch, a former  District 31 board member and opponent of the tax increase, said the pro-referendum campaign was well-financed and “their scare tactics worked.”

“I still believe it’s money they didn’t need and I feel bad for the people who can’t afford the additional taxes,”  said referendum opponent Pitsa Madoch, who said the vote looked pretty final even without the mail-in votes counted.

The District 31 referendum drove turnout in some Glenview and Northbrook precincts Tuesday, according to voters and election judges.

Because some polling places served precincts with multiple school districts, non-District 31 residents even wanted a chance to vote on the referendum, said election judges at Field School in Northbrook and Willowbrook School in Glenview.

Outside Field School, referendum supporters debated the measure with opponents. They disagreed over the direness of the district’s financial situation. The opponents said lower taxes would help attract new residents to the district, while the supporters said the cuts would hurt the district’s reputation and drive people away.

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